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Canada’s healthcare providers need more education on medical marijuana, says study

COVID-19 Cannabis

COVID-19 CannabisDo Canada’s healthcare providers needs more education on medical marijuana?

A recent report published in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia raises concerns about Canada’s new regulations on medical marijuana, saying that the regulations place too much responsibility on healthcare practitioners who are not yet familiar with the medical issues surrounding cannabis use.

The report finds that when the Canadian government replaced the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) with the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) in 2013, the ensuing explosion in the number of cannabis producers and strains of the drug have left some patients overwhelmed and many doctors and health care practitioners unable to provide proper medical advice.

“The rapid changes surrounding the medical use of cannabis has had a considerable impact on healthcare practitioners, who currently receive little or no education on issues regarding medical cannabis,” say the report’s authors. “As a result of this lack of education nationwide, patients are at the moment nearly left alone to decide which product to use, how often, and at what dose.”

Under the old MMAR system there were three ways patients could access medical marijuana; they could grow their own marijuana, purchase from an approved grower or from Health Canada itself. But a common complaint had to do with the lack of variety in the product, as Health Canada only produced one strain of marijuana, hence, with the new MMPR, Health Canada now issues licenses to qualified applicants to produce and distribute medical marijuana. The result being that currently there are 26 licensed producers across seven Canadian provinces who produce over 200 different strains of cannabis of varying chemical makeup and suggested therapeutic effects.

According to one study, as of mid-2015, an estimated 24,000 Canadians were using medical marijuana and about 4,000 doctors had begun prescribing cannabis to their patients.

“With such a diversity of products, patients may be challenged when choosing the best product for their particular medical condition,” say the report’s authors. “There is little information to guide physicians and patients as to the appropriate product and/or THC/CBD ratio to use for a specific medical condition.”

The report notes that because Health Canada does not currently consider cannabis an approved therapeutic drug, it has not issued precise dosage or uniform dosing schedules for medical cannabis, although Health Canada has provided a Daily Amount Fact Sheet (Dosage) to help health care practitioners determine recommended dosages.

The report says that along with educating practitioners, it is essential that provinces track patient’s health when using cannabis, something that only the Quebec government has begun to do, through its Quebec Cannabis Registry.

According to one study, as of mid-2015, an estimated 24,000 Canadians were using medical marijuana and about 4,000 doctors had begun prescribing cannabis to their patients.

The report concludes that although recent clinical trials show that currently available cannabinoids are “modestly effective” for the relief of some types of pain, there is nonetheless a need for stronger clinical confirmation of marijuana’s beneficial effects.

The lead author of the report is Pierre Beaulieu of the Department of Anesthesiology, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal.

South of the border, meanwhile, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren recently called on the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) to consider the role that legalized marijuana could play in combatting the current opioid epidemic. In a letter to CDC director Thomas Friedan, Warren has asked for more research into medical marijuana, saying: “Opioid abuse is a national concern and warrants swift and immediate action.”

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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