Honest conversations between doctors and patients are crucial in overcoming the barriers to real and effective healthcare solutions. It's time to replace the fear, stigma and misinformation too often associated with medical cannabis with science, reason and compassion.
To deny the history of medical cannabis access does a disservice to our understanding of access in Canada and what it's actually like for patients trying to navigate this system. We've seen the framing of cannabis in the media change rapidly -- I don't doubt much of this is owed to the professionalization of the new federal industry, alongside more research, more interest and, of course, more money.
In all of our discussions on what 'gaps' need to be addressed under the MMPR, the lack of onsite distribution comes up again and again, and is one of the major reasons for the continued proliferation of dispensaries across Canada. It's certainly a more patient-focused option, where usually patients who access dispensaries are often given the option of coming in or having it mailed.
One of the most popular topics on the 2015 elections agenda is legalization and cannabis is by far the most widely used illegal drug in the Canada. People often compare a potential legalization model to alcohol. The way alcohol is regulated in Canada provides some really important public health benefits.
The transition from Health Canada's old medical cannabis regulations, to the new regulations removed the right of patients or caregivers to produce their own medicine. This was an important decision which, in the meantime, will prevent the violation of patients' constitutional rights to life, liberty and security. Recently, this injunction was appealed, but yesterday the unanimous decision to uphold the injunction was released, and soon after, lawyer Kirk Tousaw tweeted, "both systems can and should exist."
Current media reports have highlighted that doctors can legally demand a fee to fill out this form because it is not an insured service. But really, the difference between the medical document and a prescription is clearly one of semantics. By paying hundreds of dollars to have doctors fill out medical documents, we are inadvertently reinforcing the stigma surrounding cannabis for medical purposes -- the idea that there is something "illegitimate" about cannabis' therapeutic potential and the patients who use it.
With all the rapid change around medical cannabis and talk about legalization efforts, it's important to note that these changes are not without challenge: women's disproportionate responsibility for dependent children intensifies the risk associated with smoking cannabis and being known as a cannabis user.
Health Canada has recently announced a proposed amendment that will require licensed producers (LPs) under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) to submit information about the doctors who are prescribing cannabis to provincial medical licensing authorities. In my opinion, this is another backhanded attempt to further de-legitimize the traction cannabis has been gaining in Canada and to appease the powerful institutions that surround federally authorized access.
The past has shown us in many ways that for real change, we have to find ways to work with the system, because it's a powerful one. We also need to think about how the values of a movement can remain intact even as entrepreneurs are, in some cases, displacing activists and the grassroots activism that provided access to many individuals across the country.