Article by Maura Forrest, National Post
An unexpected drama played out at a conference centre in Toronto recently, beginning with a presentation about the future of medical marijuana and ending in insults, jeers and a minor Twitter storm. At the heart of the dispute was a question that producers and users of medical cannabis feel strongly about: Once recreational pot is legal, should there still be a separate medical marijuana system?
The uproar was an unusual occurrence at a largely scientific meeting, attended by doctors, nurses and pharmacists, but it highlighted just how fraught the discussion about medical cannabis can be. With the legalization of recreational pot just around the corner, the medical marijuana industry now finds itself at a crossroads, seeking to cement the status of cannabis as a legitimate medicine even as the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) advocates for a single regulatory system.
Right now, patients may not see a lot of tangible benefits to sticking with the medical system. The excise tax the government has announced for recreational pot is to be applied to most medical cannabis products, too, much to the chagrin of producers and users.
The controversy erupted on April 5 at the conference of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, a non-profit that promotes research on the medical uses of marijuana. Dr. Jeff Blackmer, vice-president of medical professionalism with CMA, gave a presentation in which he outlined the organization’s position that there shouldn’t be a separate regulatory framework for medical cannabis once pot becomes legal. “We don’t think that makes any sense,” Blackmer told the Post in an interview before the conference. “(People) can simply go to a legal source and acquire it there.”
It was an unpopular opinion at a conference focused on the use of cannabis in medicine. Afterward, Dr. Michael Verbora, medical director with marijuana company Aleafia, stood up and asked why Blackmer thought a child with epilepsy should have to buy cannabis from a dispensary. “And he didn’t really have a good answer for that,” Verbora told the Post.