Patients’ Voices Must Be Heard In Cannabis Legalization Debate

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A quick survey of recent headlines around the legalization discussion, even the federal task force’s press conference, reveals a conspicuous absence: medical cannabis and the patients who rely on it.

The current debate and coverage focuses on legalization and regulation combining the interests of everyone from recreational users to growers to government. Without the interests of patients represented in this debate, we run the risk of establishing a future framework that is set up to fail and will require further modification.

The debate about cannabis legalization is complex and encompasses many different aspects from distribution models, to the rights of medical patients, from Canadian’s right to freedom of choice, to large-scale commercialization. When the legalization conversation does include medical issues, much of the focus is on medical cannabis users and dispensaries and, more to the point, the quality of medicine available at dispensaries. Fundamental to this discussion are the interests of the 450,000 Canadians who use medical cannabis and how best to monitor medical cannabis to safely and effectively treat them.

To understand medical cannabis, it helps to understand the path to choosing it. Medical cannabis can be a last line of treatment for those who have unsuccessfully tried pharmaceuticals. When pharmaceuticals are successful, the side-effects of treatments — for more than a dozen diseases classified by Health Canada eligible for medical cannabis — can be especially intense and unbearable causing patients to either seek other options, or incorporate cannabis into their regimen to ease these symptoms.

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