Two Halifax researchers are urging the federal government to keep medicinal and recreational marijuana streams separate once the plant is legalized in Canada.
The op-ed, published in the latest issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, was co-authored by Dr. Melanie Kelly, a professor of pharmacology and ophthalmology at Dalhousie University, and Elizabeth Cairns, a PhD candidate studying pharmacology and neuroscience.
Cairns and Kelly support a recommendation, initially proposed by the Liberal government’s task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, to keep the two so-called “streams” — medicinal and recreational — separate.
“[Patients] are potentially looking for a totally different product and there’s no guarantee with a market that’s recreationally driven that that product will be maintained and sold,” said Cairns.
CMA recommends 1 stream
Unlike the task force, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recommends just one stream once marijuana is legalized, arguing that more research must be conducted on cannabis before it should be approved for widespread medical use.
“We accept that [people] say they have benefited from using cannabis, but there’s no or very little research behind that,” said Dr. Granger Avery, president of the CMA.
“Until we have research and the real information behind it, we’re not in favour of endorsing it for medical intervention.”
There are still many regulations being hashed out as Canada prepares to legalize marijuana for recreational use before July 1 of next year.
“With recreational cannabis, what you’re looking for is intoxication — that is not necessarily the case for medicinal cannabis,” said Cairns, who points out that cannabis is the preferred, clinical term which includes not only the dried marijuana plant but also any extracts derived from the plant, such as cannabis oil.
Decrease the stigma for patients
The piece from Cairns and Kelly argues that a dual-stream approach would not only decrease the stigma surrounding medical cannabis, but would benefit patients in other ways including:
- Protecting the supply of strains of medical cannabis that have desirable effects for patients, such as lower THC strains sometimes used to treat children who suffer from seizures.
- Driving clinical research into therapeutic uses for cannabis.
- Giving health-care providers the incentive to be up to date on the latest research involving therapeutic benefits of cannabis.