Medical cannabis patients getting short end of the stick in new Canadian cannabis framework

  • National Newswatch

The focus of all governments in the area of cannabis must be to protect and enhance safety. It also must be to create policies that clearly differentiate the recreational market from the medical system. The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is increasingly concerned that governments are failing in this regard as well as their responsibility to the health and safety of medical cannabis patients.An example of such a clear absence of differentiation was the announcement by the federal government to impose an excise duty for cannabis that would apply equally to both recreational and medical cannabis. This course of action does not separate nor recognize the unique needs of medical cannabis patients and further increases the likelihood that these patients will be pushed into the recreational market. However, the requirements of medical users differ significantly from those of recreational users. In addition, medical cannabis can differ chemically from recreational cannabis and should not be used interchangeably as the intended effects are distinct.Nonetheless, governments across the country are now focused on providing access to the recreational cannabis market with little to no consideration to the supply and access concerns of medical cannabis users, whose primary access point remains a mail delivery system. Consequently, what we now see evolving is a situation where Canadians who “want” access to cannabis for recreational purposes will soon have better access than those Canadian who “require” cannabis for medical purposes.Think of a cancer patient who is using medical cannabis to manage pain and increase appetite while continuing with their conventional therapy. It's important that these patients have timely access to all their medications, including medical cannabis, in a consistent manner with the corresponding clinical care and support—as would be provided by their pharmacist. Unfortunately, patients don't have that level of access and care under the current system.Canadians requiring medical cannabis as part of their prescribed therapy should have the same rights and expectations of access to their medication and clinical oversight as is the case for all other medications. It's both unsafe and completely illogical to create a disjointed system where medical cannabis patients are forced to access cannabis from retail outlets or mail order delivery systems that do not have clinical expertise. As health care providers, we cannot support this fragmented delivery of care for Canadians.Our priority must be on patient care and ensuring that they have access to a system that offers appropriate medical and clinical support at every touchpoint, and which recognizes the specific needs of patients. It is past time for Health Canada to re-examine the medical cannabis system and, with the impending legalization of cannabis just around the corner, we cannot wait any longeIris Krawchenko, Senior Pharmacist Advisor, with the Canadian Pharmacists Association