It looks like the Canadian Medical Association wants Canada’s medical cannabis program scrapped after recreational cannabis gets legalized. Speaking at the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids in Toronto, CMA Vice President of Professionalism Jeff Blackmer stated that the CMA does not want any involvement in the prescription of the drug once it is legalized for recreational purposes.
According to Dr. Blackmer, they believe that once the government legalizes adult-use cannabis and the drug becomes readily available to all Canadians, there won’t be a need for doctors to continue serving as gatekeepers. He said physicians cannot, in good conscience, prescribe cannabis to patients because there is insufficient research supporting medical cannabis.
“Eight out of nine physicians in Canada are not comfortable discussing medical marijuana.” – Dr. Jeff Blackmer
Dr. Blackmer further claims that 8 out of 9 physicians in Canada are not comfortable discussing medical marijuana as a treatment option for their patients and giving them access to the drug. He said that it is important to recognize that the level of evidence does not reach the quality that doctors demand for every other product they prescribe.
Dr. Mark Ware, the head of the consortium that organized the conference last month, strongly disagreed with Dr. Blackmer.
Dr. Ware explained that the Cannabis Act exists for good reason, and physicians have to be involved in helping their patients pick the right medications for their health conditions while also educating them about potential drug interactions.
According to Dr. Ware, patients across Canada have a hard time engaging their doctors in a discussion on medical cannabis and so he thinks that this is a barrier that they need to break down now. He said that the worry he sees with losing a medical cannabis program is that it will completely take out of the equation the need for a clinician oversight.
People, Dr. Ware added, are likely going to have questions regarding the potential interaction of cannabis with other medications, how much cannabis should they take, when should they take it, and what are the risks associated with it. These are just the kind of thing patients should talk to their doctor about before actually trying the drug out.
Dr. Ware, who is also a medical cannabis researcher at McGill University, added that there is substantial evidence supporting the use of cannabis as an effective treatment for conditions like appetite loss and chronic pain.
Dr. Ware further explained that THC looks like it is effective in managing certain forms of spasticity, severe neuropathic pain, and neuropathy associated with multiple sclerosis, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and appetite loss that comes with HIV wasting syndrome. Meanwhile, CBD is showing a promising potential in the treatment of epilepsy in children suffering from severe convulsive disorders.
Dr. Ware went on to discuss about the endocannabinoid system, cannabis-derived products, synthetic cannabinoids, and other issues that ordinary patients may not understand fully and may therefore need doctors to explain to them.
Dr. Ware said he thinks clinicians have enough for them to be able to authorize a patient suffering from certain severe ailments to use cannabis. And he also said that while doctors still have a lot to learn, they know enough for cannabis treatment to be done safely.
“The Cannabis Act exists for good reason, and physicians have to be involved in helping their patients choose the right medications.” – Dr. Mark Ware
To this, Blackmer believes the answer is no. According to him, there is not enough scientific evidence and there are challenges to studying cannabis.
To put it simply, the debate between the two representatives got heated.
Others strongly disagreed with CMA’s stand on the issue, and this led to booing and hissing. Ultimately, Dr. Blackmer walked out of the debate.
Health Canada takes Ware’s side
Health Canada appears to side with Dr. Ware. Health Canada plans to maintain a distinct medical cannabis program even with recreational cannabis legalized.
The program, however, will be modified to create a consistency with rules pertaining to adult use, to reduce the risk of abuse within the system, and to improve patient access.