The Canadian Medical Association made it clear at a conference held this past spring that they did not feel it was appropriate for them to have to continue as the “gatekeepers” to cannabis now that it will be legal (as of Oct. 17th). Their position, which they made clear at that conference, was that they did not feel it was appropriate for the medical cannabis programme to continue once cannabis is legalized in Canada. As stated by Dr. Jeff Blackmer of the CMA;
“Our view is really that now that the government is obviously intending to legalize this, once this is a substance that’s available to all Canadians, there’s really no need for physicians to continue to serve in that gatekeeper role.”
This view was certainly not held by all who attended the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids in Toronto, and was met by a vocal reaction from some of the attendees, who booed and hissed after the presentation, leading the CMA representative to eventually walk out of the conference.
Early in September Health Canada announced that they would not be ending the framework for medical cannabis in Canada, despite the CMA’s calls for an end to the programme. The CMA released a statement to HuffPost Canada regarding this announcement saying, “The CMA remains concerned about the lack of clinical research, guidance and regulatory oversight for cannabis as a potential medical intervention”.
This unease regarding the authorization of cannabis is due to the differences between it, an herbal remedy, which, as the statement says “has not undergone established regulatory review processes required for all other prescription medicines” and a prescription medication which has gone through this very thorough regulatory process.
The CMA has stated that although cannabis can provide relief for some patients with chronic illness or disease, there simply isn’t enough clinical evidence about the risks and benefits or the interactions with other medications.
James O’Hara, president and CEO of Canadian’s for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana is in stark opposition to the CMA’s view stating;
“What I worry about when it comes to this potential cessation of a system like this is simply the lack of availability of those strains that are very important to specific conditions. For the CMA to take the position that patients should self-medicate by going to a non-medical source is quite frankly shocking to me. And to create this kind of level of fear in patients is not only unnecessary, it’s irresponsible.”
Health Canada has said that the programme will continue as is for now, but will be reassessed at some point over the next five years. They also issued a statement which said that there will be new regulations which will create the ability to gain new research licenses which will help to establish a better research process for cannabis producers.