Article by Vic Neufeld, Montreal Gazette
As the Oct. 17 launch of the recreational market quickly approaches, we need to acknowledge the diversity of opinion on how to handle cannabis in Canada. The decisions we make now are critical to the success, sustainability and safety of the cannabis market in the future. That is why I respectfully disagree with some in the medical community who believe that, post-legalization, two distinct medical and recreational cannabis systems will be unnecessary. Ignoring the distinct purposes and objectives of these two systems would lead to a significant missed opportunity for the medical cannabis industry and for patients benefitting from cannabis use.
Canada’s medical cannabis regime is considered a global model, and our actions are being carefully observed. Aphria has been working in the medical cannabis space for four years and our experience tells us that the world is moving toward an increasingly robust medical cannabis market. The reality is that cannabis is already an important part of the global medical landscape, but we’ve only scratched the surface of the plant’s medicinal potential.
The power of the medical market is its ability to legitimize cannabis for a broad cross-section of patients, while providing a solid rationale for further research and clinical studies. Organizations like the Canadian Nurses Association have argued for separate systems for years, citing concerns around access and an overaggressive focus on recreational use over medical needs. We support the idea of continuing clinical oversight because it makes the entire system safer and more efficient.
We understand the challenge medical cannabis can present for physicians. The cannabis industry needs more research and more robust science on the impact and effects of the drug. That work is escalating as the recreational market approaches, and Aphria supports independent research into the benefits and risks of cannabis for medical use. However, this renewed focus should be an opportunity to strengthen — not a reason to abandon — the real progress and advancements that are already being made. Eliminating the medical market would suddenly delegitimize the very real medical benefits and applications patients across Canada and around the world experience today.