Article by Adam Kassam, Ottawa Citizen
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recently announced that it supports the elimination of the current medical cannabis system once federal legalization is implemented in October. The rationale is “the lack of evidence, the lack of scientific studies showing it actually works, the lack of knowledge around dosing and interactions with other medications.”
The CMA’s reservation with cannabis as a safe and effective therapeutic option mirrors concerns within the medical community. Cannabis is known to be cognitively impairing, and scientific research on its chronic use is limited. It is also well established that cannabis may have deleterious effects in the neurologic development of the central nervous system, which does not fully mature until 25 years of age. This uncertainty, combined with an aggressive timeline for legalized consumption, has handcuffed health care providers, who possess varying degrees of comfort with prescribing medicinal marijuana.
However, with its position, the CMA has not only demonstrated its lack of willingness to learn about this growing field, it has abandoned physicians who will invariably field more inquiries about cannabis from patients. This is especially problematic given the growing scope of cannabis as a therapeutic option in conditions including epilepsy and spasticity. Moreover, in the context of a national opioid crisis, cannabis is growing as an alternative for chronic pain patients, and is currently recommended as a third-line medication according to the national pain guidelines.
Even more concerning is the emerging pattern among medical associations to be slow to evolve with the changing times. For example, many were initially resistant to embrace social media and online dialogue, which allowed for the unfortunate proliferation of medical misinformation. Nowhere is this more exemplified than with the anti-vaccine movement , which was given space to grow due to the void in evidence-based contributions from the scientific community.