Opinion: There’s a Crucial Need for Unbiased, Evidence-Based Cannabis Education in Canada

Article by Daniel Davidzon, National Post

Opinion: There's a crucial need for unbiased, evidence-based cannabis education in Canada Daniel Davidzon: Frustrated by vague branding, industry insiders want Canadians to have easier access to trusted education Eugene Konarev, manager and brand creator of Highlife, displays a smell jar holding product at the cannabis retail outlet in Sudbury, Ont. on Friday May 24, 2019.John Lappa/Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network National Post Daniel Davidzon

Last week, the National Post’s Growth Op reported the government of Ontario is paying internet media behemoth BuzzFeed for a series of cannabis education quizzes aimed at youth and road safety.

As Emma Spears wrote, the second quiz — The Most Stressful “Would You Rather” Quiz for Marijuana Users — features a variety of nail-biting choices. For example, “Would you rather realize you’re too high at … a family reunion (or) your college graduation?” and “Would you rather go home … in an overly chatty ride-share (or) in a van filled with extended family?”

In May, The Star Vancouver highlighted challenges facing the cannabis industry in educating Canadians, focusing on the strict limits imposed on the legal adult-use industry in terms of what it can tell consumers about the plant’s properties.

Frustrated by vague branding, a result of stringent federal regulations under the Cannabis Act — the law that legalized recreational cannabis use nationwide — industry insiders have spoken out about the need to provide Canadians with easier access to unbiased and evidence-based cannabis education.

So why has adoption of cannabis learning been so slow?

“Cannabis laws focused almost exclusively on keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth and criminals have created a collateral loss of valuable, anecdotal insight that, advocates say, could help guide, inform and educate customers while the scientific study of cannabis matures,” wrote Perrin Grauer in The Star Vancouver.

The Cannabis Act itself works to “enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis,” tasking government agencies with mounting public safety campaigns highlighting the negative effects of a legal substance, while depriving people of accessible education about a product other government agencies are tasked with promoting and distributing to the public and retailers.

The federal government has committed close to $46 million over the next five years for cannabis public education and awareness activities to inform Canadians of the health and safety risks of cannabis consumption. But what about education about its potential benefits?

Canadians turning to health-care professionals for physician-backed cannabis knowledge may be out of luck as well. Few, if any, medical schools offer anything beyond a cursory look at the medical implications of cannabis or even about the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). (It’s a network of cannabinoid receptors in cells of both the central and peripheral nervous system.)

Curriculum focused on the ECS is “minimal, if any, to none. It isn’t taught in medical schools and if it’s being implemented now, then it’s a recent development,” says Dr. Dan Bal of Stamford Health in Connecticut. “We’re not tested on it during our exams, and usually the material we are taught throughout our training will reflect the knowledge needed to succeed there. Anything beyond that learning would have to be self-taught, often during residency, fellowships or just on your own.”

An encouraging sign, the CBC recently reported “the Ontario College of Pharmacists announced it has made cannabis education mandatory … and its members have until March 27, 2020, to complete an accredited course to help them provide patients with reliable information on how cannabis interacts with their medications.”

Read the full article here.

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