The impending legalization of cannabis for recreational use in Canada is creating a lot of discussion in several circles. This was a major topic at the medical conference for the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids where many researchers, physicians, pharmacists and nurses were in attendance. One major presence was the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), who stated their opinion of terminating the medical cannabis program after legalization.

The CMA believes that once cannabis is legalized, there will be no need for physicians to continue to serve in a “gatekeeper role”. Opponents to this fear that losing the program will take clinician oversight out of the equation and limit questions patients may have for physicians about cannabis and cannabinoids. In addition, using cannabis for therapeutic reasons is much different than using the drug for recreational purposes. The reality however is, patients do speak with their physicians about the use of cannabis for the treatment of conditions, and patients will be forced to do so after legalization. Cannabis use is already widespread, making the mandatory intervention of physicians meaningless.

Medical cannabis and its derived components such as THC and CBD are currently used for treatment of a variety of ailments including pain, nausea, epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia and others. Although there is strong scientific evidence for many treatments, some physicians believe that certain doctors may not feel comfortable prescribing cannabis-containing medications to their patients. This may be attributed to possible risk of abuse of the drugs and the efficacy of these products compared to their herbal form.

There is hope that as the cannabis legalization moves forward, there will be efforts to change current medical cannabis regulations to limit possible barriers between patient and physician. As well, more research is needed concerning the cultivation and manufacture of medical cannabis that can be refined into effective active ingredients.

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