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Doctors should not feel obligated to prescribe marijuana: Health Canada

By Sharon Kirkey, Postmedia News August 18, 2014

The nation’s doctors are under no obligation to prescribe marijuana to patients seeking it for pain relief or other medical purposes, Canada’s federal health minister says.

Marijuana isn’t an approved drug, Health Canada has not endorsed its use and it has not been proven safe or effective, Rona Ambrose said Monday at the opening day of the annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association.

“The majority of the physician community do not want to prescribe it, they don’t want to be put in a situation where they’re pressured to prescribe it and I encourage them to not prescribe it if they’re not comfortable with it,” Ambrose told reporters.

The emotionally charged issue dominated the doctors’ meeting Monday. Their leaders say MDs resent being made the sole route by which Canadians can obtain legal access to marijuana and that doctors feel as if they’re being asked to authorize an unapproved drug with blindfolds on.

Most people who self-medicate with pot prefer to smoke it. “The last time I checked, smoking causes cancer and lung disease and I don’t think there’s anything magical about marijuana that gets rid of that,” said outgoing CMA president and emergency physician Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti.

Full article at the Montreal Gazette Online

Editorial: Marijuana is not a prescription medicine

CMAJ March 19, 2013 vol. 185 no. 5 First published March 11, 2013, doi: 10.1503/cmaj.130267, by: John Fletcher, MB BChir MPH

What role should doctors play in the control of marijuana? Health Canada in a news release late last year announced proposals for “new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations,” suggesting that “changes improve public safety [and] maintain patient access.”1

Access the article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23479689?dopt=Abstract

Winding down the war on drugs - Towards a ceasefire

The Economist (Online): http://www.economist.com/news/international/21572184-experiments-legalisation-are-showing-what-post-war-approach-drug-control-could-look

Excerpt: In parts of the United States, change has already come. In November voters in Colorado and Washington backed proposals to legalise, tax and regulate cannabis for recreational use. State officials are now scrambling to draft the practical rules. On February 28th a task force charged with producing recommendations for the Colorado legislature will issue its report.

Read the full story at http://www.economist.com/news/international/21572184-experiments-legalisation-are-showing-what-post-war-approach-drug-control-could-look

Doctors hesitant to be pot 'gatekeepers'

Ottawa prepares to publish proposed new regulations to its medical marijuana access program, By Sharon Kirkey, Postmedia News December 5, 2012

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Doctors+hesitant+gatekeepers/7653134/story.html#ixzz2EHmrRugr  

Medicinal marijuana home grow-ops on Ottawa chopping block

CBC News Posted: Jul 5, 2012 3:45 PM ET

Health Canada plans to no longer allow individuals to grow marijuana for medical use, with all approved grow operations instead being produced by larger industrial growers.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the agency is moving to eliminate personal grow-ops that will not require inspection.

"We are moving forward in looking at medical marijuana in terms of how any other prescription drug is accessed," the minister said.

More than 15,000 people are licensed to grow medical marijuana in Canada, but Health Canada has no record of staff ever inspecting any of the growers, CBC News has learned.

Read the full story

Israeli firm grows "highless" marijuana

SAFED, Israel (Reuters) - They grow in a secret location in northern Israel. A tall fence, security cameras and an armed guard protect them from criminals. A hint of their sweet-scented blossom carries in the air: rows and rows of cannabis plants, as far as the eye can see.

It is here, at a medical marijuana plantation atop the hills of the Galilee, where researchers say they have developed marijuana that can be used to ease the symptoms of some ailments without getting patients high.

"Sometimes the high is not always what they need. Sometimes it is an unwanted side effect. For some of the people it's not even pleasant," said Zack Klein, head of development at Tikun Olam, the company that developed the plant.

Cannabis has more than 60 constituents called cannabinoids. THC is perhaps the best known of those, less so for its medical benefits and more for its psychoactive properties that give people a "high" feeling.

But cannabis also contains Cannabidiol, or CBD, a substance that some researchers say has anti-inflammatory benefits. Unlike THC, it hardly binds to the brain's receptors and can therefore work without getting patients stoned.

"CBD plants are available in different forms all over the world," said Klein, adding that the company's plant is free of THC and very high in CBD.

Tikun Olam began its research on CBD enhanced cannabis in 2009 and about six months ago they came up with Avidekel, Klein said, a cannabis strain that contains 15.8 percent CBD and only traces of THC, less than one percent.

Read the full article on Yahoo.ca

Medicinal Marijuana Use Found In 10% Of Fibromyalgia Patients

New research reveals that 10% of fibromyalgia (FM) patients use marijuana for medicinal relief from symptoms such as widespread pain, fatigue, and insomnia caused by this chronic illness. Findings published in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), suggest that patients who self-medicate with herbal cannabis have poorer mental health. While experts believe that cannabinoids may offer some therapeutic effect, they caution against any recommendations until psychosocial and health issues can be further clarified.

Read the full article at: MedicalNewsToday.com

New report reveals dangerous lack of public understanding of the health risks of cannabis

British Lund Foundation, Press release June 6, 2012

Download the full report (pdf)

• Risk of developing lung cancer is up to twenty times greater in a cannabis cigarette than in a tobacco cigarette – yet 88% of the public believe tobacco cigarettes pose the greater risk
• A third of people believe cannabis does not harm your health - despite established scientific links to TB, acute bronchitis, lung cancer and other health problems

A new report by the British Lung Foundation, ‘The Impact of Cannabis on your Lungs’, shows an alarming disconnect between the public perception of cannabis as a relatively safe drug, and the serious, even fatal impact it can have on the lungs of people who smoke it.

The report - the most comprehensive review of research data yet compiled on the subject - reveals strong associations between smoking cannabis and many lung and respiratory illnesses, including tuberculosis, acute bronchitis and lung cancer. It is also strongly associated with suppression of the immune system and heart disease.

However, new research conducted for the report shows that public awareness of the health consequences of smoking cannabis remains worryingly low, with almost a third of the British population (32%) believing that smoking cannabis is not harmful to your health. This figure rises to almost 40% amongst those aged under-35 – the age-group most likely to have smoked it.

Dame Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation said: “It is alarming that, while new research continues to reveal the multiple health consequences of smoking cannabis, there is still a dangerous lack of public awareness of quite how harmful this drug can be.

“Young people in particular are smoking cannabis unaware that, for instance, each cannabis cigarette they smoke could increase their chances of developing lung cancer by as much as an entire packet of 20 tobacco cigarettes.

“This is not a niche problem – cannabis is one of the most widely-used recreational drugs in the UK, with almost a third of the population having tried it. We therefore need a serious public health campaign – of the kind that has helped raise awareness of the dangers of eating fatty foods or smoking tobacco – to finally dispel the myth that smoking cannabis is somehow a safe pastime”.

In light of the evidence, the report calls for:
• A public health education programme to raise awareness of the impact smoking cannabis has on your lungs and wider health.
• Increased investment in research to further establish the health consequences of using cannabis (particularly in COPD)

Health risks of cannabis 'underestimated', experts warn

BBC News, June 6, 2012

 

A Judge’s Plea for Pot

New York Times, Opinion Pages, By GUSTIN L. REICHBACH Published: May 16, 2012 - NYTimes.com

THREE and a half years ago, on my 62nd birthday, doctors discovered a mass on my pancreas. It turned out to be Stage 3 pancreatic cancer. I was told I would be dead in four to six months. Today I am in that rare coterie of people who have survived this long with the disease. But I did not foresee that after having dedicated myself for 40 years to a life of the law, including more than two decades as a New York State judge, my quest for ameliorative and palliative care would lead me to marijuana.

Read the full article at nytimes.com

Marijuana relieves muscles tightness, pain of multiple sclerosis: Study

May 14, 2012 00:05:00, Paul Irish, Life Reporter thestar.com

Smoking marijuana can relieve muscle tightness, spasticity (contractions) and pain often experienced by those with multiple sclerosis, says research out of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

The findings, just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, included a controlled trial with 30 participants to understand whether inhaled cannabis would help complicated cases where existing pharmaceuticals are ineffective or trigger adverse side effects.

Read the full story at thestar.com.

B.C. judge strikes down some medical marijuana restrictions

National Post News Online - Louise Dickson, Postmedia News Apr 13, 2012 – 2:40 PM ET

VICTORIA — A B.C. Supreme Court justice in Victoria has struck down a section of Health Canada’s medical marijuana laws.

Justice Robert Johnston concluded Friday that the restriction to dried marijuana in the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations is unconstitutional as it breaches Section 7 of the Charter of Rights. If the decision stands, it means medical-marijuana users will be able to possess cannabis in any form.

“The remedy for this breach is to remove the word ‘dried’ where it appears in the medical marijuana access regulations and I so order,” said Johnston.

Read the full story on the National Post Website

Smoke and Mirrors

Global News - 16x9 : Monday, March 26, 2012 4:31 PM

"For some who face almost unbearable pain, routine medicine is not always enough. Marie Cole is one of those few. She was diagnosed with MS and soon discovered the pain of her disease was debilitating.

“It was just really confusing. It was horrible. Like two in the morning I’d be sitting on the couch like crying,” she says. “Scratching, trying to put ice on me, just trying to do anything that would work because I was just in so much pain and I didn’t know when it was going to stop or if it was going to stop.”

Marie tried every medication her doctor prescribed but nothing was helping her pain. Desperate for relief, she began smoking marijuana..."

Read the full story on Global News: Global News | Smoke and Mirrors

Synthetic marijuana sending more teens to hospital, study finds

CBS News - Online - March 19, 2012
Synthetic marijuana is sending more kids and teens to the emergency room than ever before, according to the authors of a new study. Making matters even worse, emergency room doctors might not recognize the symptoms from these relatively new drugs, and may not realize some of these teens need immediate medical attention...

read more on the CBS news website.

Access the research on Pubmed or the Journal Pediatrics online.

Ten years of medical marijuana

Montreal Gazette
The Montreal Gazette online has compiled a series of reports on medical marijuana. You can access this material at the following link: http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/medical-marijuana/index.html  

Running Ahead of Research on Medical Marijuana

Interstitial Cystitis Association – ICA Update, Fall 2011
The IC Association quarterly newsletter published an eight page report on medical marijuana. To access this article you can subscribe to the ICA Update at the following link: http://www.ichelp.org/page.aspx?pid=542  

Will there be a Cannabinoid Drug for IC?

Interstitial Cystitis Association – ICA Update, Fall 2011
The IC Association quarterly newsletter also published a three page report on cannabinoid research. To access this article you can subscribe to the ICA Update at the following link: http://www.ichelp.org/page.aspx?pid=542  

Roadblocks to Medical Marijuana

Oct 31, 2011 - Montreal Gazette By SHARON KIRKEY, Postmedia News
A decade after Canada legalized the medical use of marijuana, most doctors are still refusing to sign the declarations patients need to get legal access to pot - meaning patients in pain risk being jailed if they use a drug that helps them function.

It's a predicament that threatens to become worse because of proposed changes to how Health Canada regulates access to the drug.

At first glance, it appears the government is easing up on strict rules for obtaining medicinal marijuana. Health Canada has proposed removing itself as the ultimate arbiter in approving or rejecting applications to possess. Instead, doctors alone would sign off on requests.

But the nation's largest doctors' group said the proposals would have the perverse effect of putting even greater pressure on MDs to control access to a largely untested and unregulated substance they know little to nothing about; a drug that hasn't gone through the normal regulatory review process.

Their licensing bodies have told doctors that they are under no obligation to complete a medical declaration under the current regulations and that anyone who chooses to do so should "proceed with caution."

John Haggie, president of the 75,000-member Canadian Medical Association, said the changes being proposed would essentially off-load all responsibility for using and monitoring marijuana to the doctors who sign an authorization - "and they'd be kind out of out there, without any infrastructure around them to assess it, to monitor it and to know if they were doing the right thing. "I don't think that's appropriate or fair," he said.

Observers said doctors fear doing harm, exposing themselves to legal action and becoming the "go-to" source for people seeking pot not to alter their pain but to alter their consciousness.

Haggie said physicians want fundamental research into some basic questions: Is it safe? Who does it work for? Who should not use it?

Yet the Conservative government abruptly terminated a medicinal marijuana research program in 2006. According to Health Canada, the government believes clinical research is "best undertaken by the private sector, such as pharmaceutical companies."

A world leader in cannabis research said the logic defies him.

"I cannot imagine how a government agency can supervise (a marijuana access) program knowing that there is very little data out there - on safety issues in particular - and not try to stimulate research," said Dr. Mark Ware, head of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, a nonprofit network of more than 150 clinicians and researchers investigating the potential role of cannabinoids in diseases from arthritis to glaucoma.

No drug company wants to evaluate smoked marijuana as a medicine, Ware said, because there's no money in it for them.

Funding agencies have been less than approachable, he added, because there's little appetite to support studies involving a product that's often smoked.

In clinical parlance, "they don't see it as a safe, viable drug delivery system," said Ware, director of clinical research at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the McGill University Health Centre.

Still, there has never been a proven overdose death caused by marijuana in humans, according to Ontario's highest court. Ware said that for patients for whom it works, cannabis can achieve about a 30-per-cent reduction in pain intensity.

But doctors remain wary - their chief concern being: How do I know when a patient is seeking a licence for a legitimate medical purpose and not simply to get legal access to an otherwise illicit drug?

Ware's consortium has been working hard to educate and support doctors around the use of cannabis. He said data from Health Canada suggest that the average medical user is consuming two grams per day - about four joints when smoked. "It's just taking that information and getting it into the hands of practising physicians. Then at least they know what the ballpark is."

Some patients were getting authorizations for far higher amounts, because doctors didn't know that 30 or 40 grams a day could be outside the "normal" range, he said.

Health Canada said the proposed changes to the program - which would include removing the rights of patients to grow their own supply of marijuana or to appoint designated growers, forcing users to get their pot from a licensed commercial producer instead - would make the program less complicated for seriously ill Canadians.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Roadblocks+medical+marijuana/5631482/story.html#ixzz1cNDKih8V

CCIC Member, Jonathan Page, involved in "The Draft Genome and Transcriptome of Cannabis Satvia"

Oct 20, 2011
Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, University of Toronto and the National Research Council of Canada published “The Draft Genome and Transcriptome of Cannabis Satvia” in Genome Biology, 20-Oct-2011.
 
We would like to recognize CCIC Member, Jonathan Page, PhD, Biology Department, University of Saskatchewan, for his involvement in this project.
 
The researchers expect that sequencing the Cannabis sativa genome will help answer basic questions about the biology of the plant as well as furthering development of its myriad applications. These include strains for pharmaceutical production, high-producing industrial hemp plants, and hemp seed varieties to produce high-quality edible oil. Hemp seed oil is rich in omega 6, an essential fatty acid, and its fibre is used in the production of textiles.
 
The authors conclude: “The Cannabis sativa genome enables the analysis of a multifunctional plant that occupies a unique role in human culture. Its availability will further the development of therapeutic marijuana strains with tailored cannabinoid profiles and provide a basis for the breeding of hemp with improved agronomic characteristics.”.
 
To access the full article online visit the BioMed Central Open Access Journal: www.genomebiology.com
Abstract and link to full text.
Editorial
 
This research has been highlighted by various new agencies across the country, links to these articles can be found at: CBC.ca, Vancouver Sun, Star Phoenix, Le Devoir (en français).

Medical marijuana law under review

Sep 28, 2011
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/09/28/pol-mckie-medical-marijuana-talks.html

Health Canada began two days of closed-door talks Wednesday about changes to the controversial medical marijuana law that has faced legal challenges and criticism for being ineffective....

CCIC comments on Health Canada's proposed improvements to the Marihana Medical Access Program

July 28, 2011

Preamble

We would like to start by commending Health Canada (HC) for taking concrete steps towards improving the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR). We are aware that this process has been ongoing for the last two years, with a detailed program review and focal consultations leading to the proposed changes, and we commend Health Canada for embarking on wide consultation at this stage.

The Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids (CCIC) is a federally registered non-profit organization whose mandate is the promotion of research and education on cannabinoids in health and disease. The CCIC and its members (including over 150 scientists, physicians and other healthcare professionals) have been involved with the MMAR program since its inception as a section 56 exemption program in 1999. We have been involved in doing some of the critical research on cannabis and cannabinoids at the bench and bedside, and into wider society, and in the last two years we have embarked on an extensive medical education campaign on cannabinoids that is receiving international recognition and attention.

Overall, we see the proposed changes as a positive step, recognizing in particular the public safety issues that have arisen around lack of regulation on designated growers, and the lack of access to physicians who are willing to sign MMAR authorization forms. We accept the concerns laid out in the document as valid, but we feel it is important to point out that the concerns do not, at this time, stem from concerns around the safety of the use of the drug by patients. We are also pleased that the intent of the program remains true, and wish to highlight the fact that the intent is to provide “…seriously ill Canadians with reasonable access to a legal source of marihuana for medical purposes…”.

The proposed changes include the following steps:

A. Physician-patient interaction
1. Eliminate HCs role in reviewing applications
2. New supply and distribution system
3. Emphasis on physicians to authorize access
4. No more categories of conditions or symptoms
5. Set up an Expert Advisory Committee to improve physician access to information
6. Work with medical community and licensing authorities

B. Marihuana production and distribution
1. No contracted supplier
2. Establish licensed commercial producers
3. Phase out personal and designated production
4. Regulate and monitor commercial producers
5. Allow commercial producers to grow more than one strain, set prices and sell direct to consumer via mail or courier

The devil, as they say, is in the details. It is there that the proposed changes will face true challenges of design and implementation and will require innovative solutions and compromise to achieve a balanced regulatory approach that is acceptable to all stakeholders. We will provide comment and suggestions under each item.

A. Physician-patient interaction

1. Eliminate HCs role in reviewing MMAR applications
This is appropriate. HCs role should be in regulating the program, not deciding who is or is not eligible.

2. New supply and distribution system
This is also reasonable, provided that access and choice is improved (see below).

3. Emphasis on physicians to authorize access
This is where a major issue is going to be faced with this process. There are two issues. The first relates to the need for further education. Most physicians are not familiar with the extensive science regarding the endocannabinoid system and the role of cannabinoids as therapeutic agents. The CMA has been very clear that physicians who think they do not have the appropriate knowledge base should not be involved in the MMAR program. This perspective has not changed and the majority of physicians have chosen not to be involved. Several CCIC members have stated their discomfort with the ‘gatekeeper’ role for physicians, and have indicated that this has led to additional burden on physicians and clinics who have taken the time to review the literature and elected to become involved. The second issue relates to the fact that physicians who are educated about the endocannabinoid science and who elect to become involved with the MMAR are only in a position to identify if cannabis is a reasonable treatment for the specific medical condition of their patient. Physicians will not have access to reliable information as to whether the patient has been arrested for trafficking or diversion in relation to drugs in the past. Thus it will be important to include a mechanism to review this type of issue known only to law enforcement.
The proposed changes to the MMAR place the physician squarely in the role of gatekeeper. The issue of physician education will have to be examined, and concrete, accessible and effective programs will need to be put into place and evaluated. Physicians will need simple guidelines and access to support, and the task of the Expert Advisory Committee (EAC) will be paramount in this process. Included in this will be the need to make the new forms simple, clear, effective and legally and ethically acceptable.

4. No more categories of conditions or symptoms
We support this. Cannabis (in its herbal form) is not an approved drug, so it is misleading to have approved ‘indications’. MDs will need access to such data as does exist on cannabis and cannabinoids for the more common presenting disorders (see below).

5. Set up an Expert Advisory Committee to improve physician access to information
This is a critical step, and the first test of how serious (and successful) this process is will be who chairs and sits on this committee. The CCIC suggests that representation from the CMA, CMPA, CCIC, addiction medicine, pain management, psychiatry, neuroscience, sociology, pharmacy, nursing and patient representation should be strongly considered. The committee should be adequately briefed by law enforcement, ‘compassion clubs’, existing licensed producers, policymakers, lawyers and other stakeholders.

6. Work with medical community and licensing authorities
Developing a knowledge transfer mechanism (likely by the EAC) will be critical to inform and engage provincial colleges in the process. Other important stakeholders at the provincial level include insurance companies (e.g. workman’s compensation, automobile insurance etc) and medical schools.

B. Marihuana production and distribution

Here the CCIC has no experience, but we suggest that the key to success of this part of the program will be in finalizing the level of regulation required to act as a commercial producer. The screening and approval process will need to be balanced between regulatory rigor and fairness for competition.

1. No contracted supplier
We agree. Health Canada should not be in the business of growing and selling cannabis.

2. Establish licensed commercial producers
See above

3. Phase out personal and designated production
We anticipate that HC will face a strong response from the medical cannabis community in this regard, and we suggest that some form of compromise will have to be sought with this item. If the regulations for commercial producers are so stringent that few companies step up to provide this service, and if their ability to offer choice of cannabis strains to patients is limited, then HC can expect this issue to be challenged legally. The CCIC recognizes that there has been abuse of the designated production license, and that this should be phased out, but we believe that personal production should remain, provided it, too, is closely monitored and regulated. There are several reasons for this position. One is that for many patients it will be easier and cheaper to grow their own supply of cannabis than to purchase from a commercial producer. Another is that for many patients the act of growing their own ‘medicine’ is actually therapeutic in its own right, and gives them a sense of control and ownership of their health and treatments. This intangible effect is purely based on compassion, not evidence.
We believe that a regulatory mechanism can be set up for personal growers. They must be prepared to submit site and product for inspection, provide appropriate conditions, and be able to submit samples to centralized labs for testing at reasonable cost. Penalties for abusing the personal production license (PPL) should be firm but fair.
Commercial producers would be able to sell seed to personal production license holders; costs of equipment, materials and hydro etc would remain the responsibility of the PPL holder. If the commercial producers are good and accessible, we suspect that the PPL option will be exercised by few individuals, but its presence does allow for a supply option to the patient and this will be an important point in negotiations with stakeholders.

4. Regulate and monitor commercial producers
We agree.

5. Allow commercial producers to grow more than one strain, set prices and sell direct to consumer via mail or courier
We agree. Such producers should be encouraged to engage in research to evaluate what the phenotypic differences in these strains are (e.g. cannabinoid content, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, terpenoid content etc) and how these relate to differences in patient outcomes. Rural access and shipping costs need to be addressed, and we propose that a pharmacy distribution model should be seriously explored to allow access to remote areas and to avoid patients taking on the burden of ship costs which may become prohibitive and thereby limit access.

CONCLUDING COMMENTS

The main concern from the CCIC at this point is the lack of any attempt to stimulate research on the endocannabinoid system and the medical use of cannabis and other cannabinoids. One of the main barriers to the entire process has always been a lack of data, and it is only through research that we can provide up-to-date information to health care providers, patients and the public.

To resolve this, the CCIC proposes that any and all commercial producers who are licensed under the new regulations must contribute a percentage of their revenue to a centrally-managed independent Cannabis Research and Education (CARE) fund. This ‘levy’ will be tax-deductible, uniformly applied, and fair given that the companies are profiting from selling an unapproved drug. The funds will be managed by an appropriate committee and could, for example, be used to support an research group to conduct a voluntary patient monitoring program (patients must provide informed consent to participate) for adverse events, or to provide guidelines to participating clinicians on follow-up to monitor patient outcomes and safety issues. These data will also feed into the education programs (see above).

Such an approach will be of very low cost to HC, allow independent arms-length monitoring of the health of Canadians participating in the MMAR by experts in the field, and will reassure international bodies that Canada is not only allowing compassionate access to cannabis for medical purposes, but by doing so, is also committed to adding to the body of knowledge on the subject to the international scientific and clinical community.

Sincerely,
Dr. Mark A. Ware
President and Executive Director
Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids

Judge extends status quo on marijuana laws

TheStar.com Article, John Goddard Staff Reporter: June 22, 2011
Existing marijuana laws are to remain in place until Ottawa can study — and possibly reform — its medical marijuana program, an Ontario Court of Appeal judge ruled Wednesday.

“The government needs time if it is to get it right,” appeal court Justice Robert Blair said in extending the status quo until either Ottawa can change its program or a court appeal of a ruling against the medical program can be heard.

To reform the program, Ottawa would almost certainly need to hear from the medical community, sick people needing marijuana medication and other interested parties, the court was told.

Justice Blair also ordered that an appeal of the ruling against the government be heard as early as November, a case expected to last less than two days.

Two months ago, a lower court judge declared the federal medical marijuana program unconstitutional, saying doctors have “massively boycotted” the program and deprived sick people of necessary medication.

That ruling might have legalized pot possession and marijuana cultivation in Ontario, except that the judge suspended his decision for 90 days to allow Ottawa to render the medical program constitutional. Wednesday’s ruling extends the 90-day deadline indefinitely.

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/article/1013398--judge-extends-status-quo-on-marijuana-laws?bn=1

Government of Canada Considers Improvements to the Marihuana Medical Access Program to Reduce the Risk of Abuse and Keep our Children and Communities Safe

Health Canada News Release, 2011-80, June 17, 2011

To reduce the risk of abuse and exploitation by criminal elements and keep our children and communities safe, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, today announced that the Government of Canada is considering improvements to the Marihuana Medical Access Program.

"Our Government is very concerned that the current Marihuana Medical Access Program is open to abuse and exploitation by criminal elements," said Minister Aglukkaq. "That is why we are proposing improvements to the program that will reduce the risk of abuse and keep our children and communities safe, while significantly improving the way program participants access marihuana for medical purposes."

The Government is launching public consultations today with Canadians on the proposed improvements. A consultation document has been posted on the Health Canada website which contains the proposed improvements. Interested Canadians are invited to provide comments until July 31, 2011. Input from these consultations will be considered in the development of new regulations, which Canadians will again have an opportunity to comment on when the proposed regulations appear in Canada Gazette, Part I, in 2012.

For the full release: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/nr-cp/_2011/2011_80-eng.php

Health Canada News Release - Marihuana Medical Access Program (June 2011)

The Government of Canada is considering changes to the Marihuana Medical Access Program to reduce the risk of abuse and exploitation by criminal elements and keep our children and communities safe.

Health Canada would like to hear from Canadians on the proposed improvements. A consultation document has been posted on our website, and Canadians are invited to submit their comments by July 31, 2011.

See the full release: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/nr-cp/_2011/2011_80bkr-eng.php

Tories set to outlaw individual growers of medical marijuana

Heather Scoffield, Ottawa— The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, Jun. 16, 2011 3:11PM EDT

The federal government is poised to tighten the rules on medical marijuana so that only licensed private operators are allowed to grow it, The Canadian Press has learned.

Sources say Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq wants to take individuals and Health Canada out of the business of growing pot.

Instead, she wants to tender licenses to the private sector to produce marijuana in a way that is similar to how conventional drugs are produced – by companies, under tightly regulated conditions.

Click here for the full story: TheGlobe&Mail.com>News>Politics

Click here for a similar story with CBC.ca

Global Commission on Drug Policy

http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/Report

Our principles and recommendations can be summarized as follows:
End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others. Challenge rather than reinforce common misconceptions about drug markets, drug use and drug dependence.

Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens. This recommendation applies especially to cannabis, but we also encourage other experiments in decriminalization and legal regulation that can accomplish these objectives and provide models for others.

Offer health and treatment services to those in need. Ensure that a variety of treatment modalities are available, including not just methadone and buprenorphine treatment but also the heroin-assisted treatment programs that have proven successful in many European countries and Canada. Implement syringe access and other harm reduction measures that have proven effective in reducing transmission of HIV and other blood-borne infections as well as fatal overdoses. Respect the human rights of people who use drugs. Abolish abusive practices carried out in the name of treatment – such as forced detention, forced labor, and physical or psychological abuse – that contravene human rights standards and norms or that remove the right to self-determination.

Apply much the same principles and policies stated above to people involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets, such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers. Many are themselves victims of violence and intimidation or are drug dependent. Arresting and incarcerating tens of millions of these people in recent decades has filled prisons and destroyed lives and families without reducing the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organizations. There appears to be almost no limit to the number of people willing to engage in such activities to better their lives, provide for their families, or otherwise escape poverty. Drug control resources are better directed elsewhere.

Invest in activities that can both prevent young people from taking drugs in the first place and also prevent those who do use drugs from developing more serious problems. Eschew simplistic ‘just say no’ messages and ‘zero tolerance’ policies in favor of educational efforts grounded in credible information and prevention programs that focus on social skills and peer influences. The most successful prevention efforts may be those targeted at specific at-risk groups.

Focus repressive actions on violent criminal organizations, but do so in ways that undermine their power and reach while prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation.

Law enforcement efforts should focus not on reducing drug markets per se but rather on reducing their harms to individuals, communities and national security.
Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime. Replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights – and adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation. Review the scheduling of drugs that has resulted in obvious anomalies like the flawed categorization of cannabis, coca leaf and MDMA. Ensure that the international conventions are interpreted and/or revised to accommodate robust experimentation with harm reduction, decriminalization and legal regulatory policies.

Break the taboo on debate and reform. The time for action is now.

 

GW announces UK launch of world’s first prescription cannabis medicine

GW announces UK launch of world’s first prescription cannabis medicine, June 21, 2010.
Sativex® marketed to treat spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis.
Porton Down, UK, 21 June 2010: GW Pharmaceuticals plc (GWP:AIM) today announces the UK launch of Sativex®, its Oromucosal Spray for the treatment of spasticity due to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Sativex® is the world’s first prescription cannabis medicine and the UK is the first country in the world to grant a full regulatory authorization for the product.

Read the full story on the GW website - Click here
Read the coverage by CNN.com - Click here

 

Marijuana et médecine - Une prescription politique et non scientifique

Yves Lamontagne - Président du Collège des médecins du Québec 15 juin 2010
"La première responsabilité du Collège des médecins du Québec est de s'assurer que les médecins du Québec pratiquent une médecine de qualité. Or, la prescription de marijuana ne répond pas actuellement à ces critères de qualité. Comme nos collègues canadiens, nous croyons que le cadre idéal pour permettre aux malades d'utiliser la marijuana aurait été un projet de recherche, que Santé Canada devait financer à l'Université McGill et à Toronto, et qui n'a jamais été mis en branle. Cela aurait permis aux médecins d'obtenir des données probantes face à l'utilisation thérapeutique de la marijuana et d'éviter la confusion qui entoure encore ce sujet.?"

Visit Le Devoir.com (French only)

Marijuana & Money

CNBC.com special report, 2010
"Many Americans support legalization and many states already permit medical use. An end to prohibition would generate billions in tax revenue and relieve the criminal justice system. But is it the right thing to do?"

Explore the resources and articles on CNBC.com

 

Medical Marijuana may help fibromyalgia pain

CNN, Feb 22, 2010
"We think that there's probably a role for that class of compounds, the cannabinoids in general, and it's just a question of working out how that's going to be put into practice," says Mark Ware, M.D., an assistant professor in family medicine and anesthesia at McGill University, in Montreal, and the executive director of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids.

Read the full story on CNN.com

 

AMA Report Recognizes Medical Benefits of Marijuana, Urges Further Research

Houston, TX, Nov 10 2009
The American Medical Association (AMA) voted today to reverse its long-held position that marijuana be retained as a Schedule I substance with no medical value. The AMA adopted a report drafted by the AMA Council on Science and Public Health (CSAPH) entitled, "Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes," which affirmed the therapeutic benefits of marijuana and called for further research. The CSAPH report concluded that, "short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis." Furthermore, the report urges that "the Schedule I status of marijuana be reviewed with the goal of facilitating clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods."

The change of position by the largest physician-based group in the country was precipitated in part by a resolution adopted in June of 2008 by the Medical Student Section (MSS) of the AMA in support of the reclassification of marijuana's status as a Schedule I substance. In the past year, the AMA has considered three resolutions dealing with medical marijuana, which also helped to influence the report and its recommendations. The AMA vote on the report took place in Houston, Texas during the organization's annual Interim Meeting of the House of Delegates. The last AMA position, adopted 8 years ago, called for maintaining marijuana as a Schedule I substance, with no medical value.

"It's been 72 years since the AMA has officially recognized that marijuana has both already-demonstrated and future-promising medical utility," said Sunil Aggarwal, Ph.D., the medical student who spearheaded both the passage of the June 2008 resolution by the MSS and one of the CSAPH report's designated expert reviewers. "The AMA has written an extensive, well-documented, evidence-based report that they are seeking to publish in a peer-reviewed journal that will help to educate the medical community about the scientific basis of botanical cannabis-based medicines." Aggarwal is also on the Medical & Scientific Advisory Board of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the largest medical marijuana advocacy organization in the U.S.

The AMA's about face on medical marijuana follows an announcement by the Obama Administration in October discouraging U.S. Attorneys from taking enforcement actions in medical marijuana states. In February 2008, a resolution was adopted by the American College of Physicians (ACP), the country's second largest physician group and the largest organization of doctors of internal medicine. The ACP resolution called for an "evidence-based review of marijuana's status as a Schedule I controlled substance to determine whether it should be reclassified to a different schedule. "The two largest physician groups in the U.S. have established medical marijuana as a health care issue that must be addressed," said ASA Government Affairs Director Caren Woodson. "Both organizations have underscored the need for change by placing patients above politics."

Though the CSAPH report has not been officially released to the public, AMA documentation indicates that it: "(1) provides a brief historical perspective on the use of cannabis as medicine; (2) examines the current federal and state-based legal envelope relevant to the medical use of cannabis; (3) provides a brief overview of our current understanding of the pharmacology and physiology of the endocannabinoid system; (4) reviews clinical trials on the relative safety and efficacy of smoked cannabis and botanical-based products; and (5) places this information in perspective with respect to the current drug regulatory framework."

Further information:
Executive Summary of AMA Report (available to AMA members on the AMA website: www.ama-assn.org/go/csaphreports)
Recommendations of AMA Report
American College of Physicians resolution

 

 

US medical cannabis policy eased

BBC.co.uk, Oct 20 2009
Federal prosecutors in the US have been ordered to stop cannabis-related prosecutions in the 13 states where medical use of the drug is legal.
Please see BBC.co.uk for the full story.

CNNPolitics.com, Oct 19 2009
The Justice Department has provided federal prosecutors "clarification and guidance" urging them to go after drug traffickers, but not patients and caregivers, in the 14 states that have medical marijuana laws.
Please see CNN.com for the full story.

 

 

DEA proposing to schedule generic THC as Schedule III

Please click here for the full article (pdf) from the Federal Register

 

Marijuana's journey to legal health treatment: the Canadian experience

cbcnews.ca, Health, Medical Marijuana. August 14, 2009
For more than 70 years, possession of marijuana has been a crime in Canada. For most of that time, there were no exceptions for anyone using it for medical reasons.
At first, enforcement of that prohibition was sporadic. In the 1930s and 40s, there was an average of just one or two prosecutions a year. By the late 1960s, recreational marijuana use had grown to the point that hundreds, and eventually thousands of young Canadians a year were being introduced to the criminal justice system thanks to their use of pot.
The most recent stats show that more than 40,000 Canadians are regularly being charged with marijuana possession every year. Cannabis sativa has become by far the most popular illegal drug in the country, with some surveys suggesting that 10 million Canadians aged 15 or older have used marijuana at least once in their lives.

For the full article please click here or visit http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2009/08/14/f-medical-marijuana.html#socialcom

 

Frank Introduces Bills to Prevent Federal Criminal Prosecution for Medical and Personal Marijuana Use

United States Congressman Barney Frank - Press Release, June 19, 2009
"WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Barney Frank today announced that he has introduced two bills concerning the use of marijuana in the U.S.
The Marijuana Patient Protection Act (H.R. 2835) would prevent federal authorities from prosecuting pharmacies, growers and users of medical marijuana in states where the use of the substance for medical reasons is legal. The bill has received support from members of both parties.
“There are some people who are in severe pain for whom nothing else seems to work,” said Congressman Frank. “It is cruel to prevent them from having access to something which helps relieve their pain. This is especially true because so many states allow it. For the federal government to come in and supersede state law is a real mistake.”
. . Read more

 

There's no business like grow business

The Globe and Mail, Saturday May 23, 2009
Sam Mellace has possibly the most sophisticated marijuana growing operation in British Columbia.
An outspoken advocate for medicinal marijuana, the former Ontario resident with a criminal record is running an industrial-style production line yielding around seven kilograms of marijuana every four to six weeks. His custom-designed building with around 250 plants in various stages of growth has been set up as a prototype to illustrate what could be done. This is the future, Mr. Mellace says.
For the full article please click here

This article shows how the current 'grey zone' regarding cannabis cultivation for medical purposes is being occupied. The Canadian government is now soliciting bids for renewal of its cannabis cultivation contract, currently held by Priarie Plant Systems. It is not clear what requirements or qualifications potential suppliers must demonstrate, or how the product will be 'quality controlled' before delivery to authorized patients. There is a complete absence of public medical and scientific input into this process, which is a shame; doctors who sign the applications for authorization should be more aware of the process.

Medical marijuana is a touchy political subject that will not disappear, however federal politicians may wish it. There is emerging evidence of efficacy of cannabis, there is emerging evidence of safety, and an expanding number of users. The medical and scientific community should engage in this process from a public or individualised health perspective, so that our patients are better informed and served

 

Top court won't hear medical marijuana appeal

CTV.ca Thu. Apr. 23 2009
OTTAWA -- The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that effectively loosened Ottawa's control over access to medicinal marijuana. read more.

 

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