Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Canadian physician group decries proposed changes to medical marijuana program

source: Postmedia News
 By Natalie Stechyson, 

CMA president Dr. Anna Reid says physicians are unfairly being asked to prescribe a drug without the information they need to use it safely and appropriately. Photograph by: Patrick Kane/Postmedia News/Files , Postmedia News


OTTAWA — The federal government’s proposed changes to the medical marijuana program would leave Canada’s doctors in a lurch, dumping the responsibility for a substance with very little clinical evidence onto them, says the head of the Canadian Medical Association.

Health Canada announced Sunday that it plans to change the way that people access medical marijuana, taking itself out of the production and distribution of the substance and opening up the commercial market to companies that meet “strict security requirements.”

The concern is that physicians are now going to be asked to be the sole gatekeepers to the drug, Dr. Anna Reid, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, told Postmedia News.

“There haven’t been any studies saying these are the risks versus the benefits. And we know there are risks. There are risks of psychosis. There are risks of problems with your lungs because you smoke it,” Reid said.

“We also know anecdotally that there are perceived benefits in terms of nausea and pain. But we don’t know what the balance is.”

According to Health Canada, there are currently over 26,000 people in the Marihuana Medical Access Program. There were only 477 enrolled in the program in 2002.

The changes announced Sunday aim to treat marijuana like any other narcotic used for medical purposes – patients can purchase the appropriate amount from a licensed vendor as long as they have a signed medical document, similar to a prescription, from a health care practitioner.

It would also mean production can no longer take place in private homes, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a news conference in Vancouver.

“Current medical marijuana regulations have left the system open to abuse,” she said in a statement.
“We have heard real concerns from law enforcement, fire officials, and municipalities about how people are hiding behind these rules to conduct illegal activity, and putting health and safety of Canadians at risk. These changes will make it far more difficult for people to game the system.”

The new system would also cut red tape, striking the “right balance” between patient access and public safety, Aglukkaq said.

Physicians are acutely aware that there aren’t enough adequate ways to treat chronic pain, but would like to see more research done on medical marijuana, Reid said.

“If something goes wrong, we’re the ones responsible and our number one concern as physicians is for the safety of our patients,” Reid said.

The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries said in a statement Sunday that they were worried about the quality of patient care under the proposed regulations.

“CAMCD remains concerned that patients will continue facing barriers to access,” said president Rade Kovacevic.

“Affordability remains unaddressed, medical associations remain reluctant to endorse the government program, and there are no provisions for non-smoking alternatives such as baked goods and tinctures.”

The government intends to implement the new system by March 31, 2014. Health Canada has a 75-day comment period and will receive comments until the end of February 2013.


  1. To all Doctors & Politicians go to http://www.calgarycmmc.com/ then click on Cannabis Videos-Updated Daily, Here you find information videos on everything from Dispensaries and how they work to Accredited Doctors explaining the usages, effects, side effects of Cannabis. Look further into this site and you will find studies, research modals and findings. Or if you choose just search Google and you will find all the necessary information you will need including Prescriptions and Dosages per day.
    Please Do Not say there is not enough Research or Studies for you or your patients to make a honest responsible choice for Cannabis as a medical treatment if the prognosis is warranted, the critically ill and chronic pain suffers don’t have 15 years for Cannabis to be “Accepted “ by the Medical Profession, the Government and Society.

  2. MMAR Impact Statement
    Through a Patients Eyes

    To start off a little history of the HELL I went through to get my ATP certification:

    I asked my doctor and gave him the app and the waiver he said he would look in to it. At my next appt he said he took the matter to the ethics board and was told that he would open himself up to rev can audit, and did not want that. So I went to MM.ca with with my MRI that says I have Osteoarthritis. I got doctors appt and was told that she was filing a B2 app for me because Osteoarthritis is not a B1 illness and that I may be Rejected because the doctor at the pain clinic that sent me for the MRI is not a registered specialist as required on a B2 app. 2 Months later I received notice from Health Canada to find a specialist. Its now 2 Months later I have sent out 4 referrals from my doctor, 2 have responded with a refusal of the referral saying simply I can not Help this patient.
    Another month has gone by and I got review of my App, I have specialist report stating chronic pain due to osteoarthritis and doctor has stated cannabis as a pain reliever, health Canada has denied report because doctor is not a Royal Colleges of Physicians degree. My Doctor is now trying to convince them on the merit of the specialist, and in all this I asked my Doctor about Her Contact at health Canada and if there is any Medical people there she said no, How in the heck is it Legal for a non medically licensed government person to be making decisions on My HEALTH CARE. The law was struck down because" patients are unable to find a Doctor to sign the app", I have 2 Doctors that are recommending cannabis.
    Just had it out with Health Canada, They are not budging Royal Colleges of Physicians degree or NO ACCSESS!!!!
    I am Just a guy in pain trying to continue to work and take care of my disabled wife and by the way it takes her 8-10 months to get a specialist. It really is a case of the compassion of medicine hitting the burecrtic brick wall.
    I am in my 4th month of pursuing my MMAR license, I have finally had my specialist appt with a doctor who is FRCPC Runatoligest and Royal Colleges of Physicians Accredited. Not to make light of his stroke a few years back but this doctor was on more Meds that I could only dream about, I mean this guy was as
    high as a kite. The first hour of the Appt was discussing where my pain is and my med list, half the hour was taken up with lecturing me on how bad it is for me to
    be getting allergy shots every 2 weeks, the 2nd part of the hour was recommending that I stop using Celebrex and baclifen which are the 2 meds that are helping the swelling and back spasams,.the 2nd hour was the physical exam in which he twisted and turned me until I was in pain and in conclusion determined that all can be fixed by exercise, weight loss and quitting smoking, He did on the other hand diagnose me with Fibermyalga which my wife and I have suspected for years.
    All in all he gave me no real ideas or suggestions on how to manage pain like my pain specialist did. But at least I will have a report from a specialist that health Canada will accept. I should know within a month.

  3. Going into my 5th month I find the "Proposed Redesigned Program" Insane that I have spent 3 months looking for a specialist/specialist when the "Proposed Changes will eliminate A Specialist. So still after 4 months the only safe place I can medicate is my Bathroom, and even at that I am breaking the law.
    So in my 8th month and finely have my app in to Health Canada they had it for two weeks so
    I called to check on progress and I was told they will call in a few weeks, basically saying
    Don’t call us Will call you,” so here we sit”
    Nov 8th finally received my ATP certificate (Card) I put card in brackets because there is no Card any more, anyway Legal now for the next 10 months and do it all over again for renewal, I think Health Canada has issues with that to.
    Note: I Paid Just Over $500.00 to MM.ca for my ATP because my doctor would not sign, but I meet the criteria of the MMAR program through any Physician. Until all Physician are mandated to accept there patients needs over there own (ignorance}in brackets because tests are done, research is in, Guess What? Cannabis IS MEDICALLY BENIFICAL. .
    As for getting rid of the Individual grower I just don't understand how I can buy just a part of the plant? I use the whole plant, Stalk & leaves for Cannabutter, Bud to Medicated and WHAT do I do with SEEDS? I my self am serviced by a Compassion Club they are serviced by Individual growers who produce a variety of strains for a variety of illnesses and about half of them are at subsidized prices at 5-7 dollars a gram. If my Club gets forced out of business and they ("don't care what you say" Health Canada} can't provide the service I need I will be returning to my dealer.
    I will in conclusion Leave you with the following recommendations from an article forwarded from Cannabis Culture, We will stand for nothing less.
    I am deeply concerned about the response by Health Canada to the various court decisions declaring its existing medical marijuana program unconstitutional. The proposals that have been brought forward fail to deal with the myriad of problems in the program. Specifically, I take issue with the following proposals:
    Physician as “Gatekeeper”:
    R v Mernagh found that physicians in Canada have effectively boycotted the existing medical marijuana program, and therefore the program itself was unconstitutional. Health Canada's response does nothing to address this boycott beyond the promise of making information accessible to physicians. Any changes to the Health Canada medical marijuana program must abide by the findings in R v Mernagh and meaningfully expand the “Gatekeeper” role beyond physicians, preferably to include Naturopaths, Nurse Practitioners, Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacists.

  4. Personal and Designated Production:
    Individuals have spent thousands of dollars and often years of time setting up production facilities and finding appropriate marijuana cultivars (strains) for their condition. Court cases including Sfetkopolous, Beren and Hitzig have found that denying production licenses on arbitrary grounds violates a patient's constitutional rights to access medical marijuana.
    Contrary to extensive misinformation campaigns in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, led by the RCMP research chair at the UCFV, there is no evidence that medical marijuana production facilities contribute any more to public safety threats than a myriad of other permitted activities (including cooking at home, having expensive possessions, installing a hot-tub, growing tomato plants). Any changes to the Health Canada medical marijuana program must include the preservation of personal and designated production.
    Patient Identification:
    Authorized medical marijuana patients from across Canada report that local police often fail to recognize current medical marijuana authorization identification, detaining and even arresting patients and often illegally seizing their medication. The proposal to remove any formal identification for patients will only lead to more unlawful detention of patients by local police. Any changes to the Health Canada medical marijuana program must include patient identification and education programs to ensure police do not continue to unlawfully detain authorized patients.
    For profit production:
    The proposal by Health Canada to only allow medical marijuana to be produced for profit by an oligopolistic group of license holders, at a price point those producers set, will be a disaster for patient access in Canada. Not only will patients be unable to acquire strains they have bred specifically for their symptoms, but they will be subject to exorbitant increases in price. Especially for patients who require large dosages this will result in an inability to access medication. The current holder of the Health Canada commercial production license has failed to create an adequate supply for Canadians. Patients report low quality, low efficacy, high prices and ineffective medical quality. There is simply no reason to believe that expanding the system of commercial production, based on current Health Canada requirements will result in any positive changes to patient access. Any changes to the Health Canada medical marijuana program must include alternatives to a purely profit driven system of production.
    Medical Marijuana Dispensaries:
    The current proposals by Health Canada do nothing to address the court sanctioned yet unlicensed system of medical marijuana dispensaries in Canada. These Dispensaries serve several times more patients than the current Health Canada program, and patients report much higher satisfaction with dispensary services. Any changes to the Health Canada program must include licensing the existing network of dispensaries.
    The proposals by Health Canada constitute less than a bad faith response to court orders, they represent outright defiance. The current proposals do not meet the needs of medical marijuana patients in Canada, and will result in a further restriction of patient access to medical marijuana. I call upon Health Canada to return to the drawing board and come up with a program designed to succeed, not fail. I call on Health Canada to honor the spirit and intent of court rulings and create a meaningful system of workable access for medical marijuana. Sincerely Yours The Patient.