CMCC Applauds Protection of Medical Cannabis Framework for Patients

CMCC Applauds Protection of Medical Cannabis Framework for Patients

April 13, 2017 - Ottawa, ON – Philippe Lucas, Executive Director of the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council

(CMCC) CMCC today released the following statement regarding the release of the proposed cannabis legislation: “We applaud the federal government for its announcement today that protects the medical cannabis market as regulated through the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) and ensures patients have access to a secure, stable medical cannabis system.”

“It is vital that public and private drug insurance providers work to provide coverage for medical cannabis in a manner consistent with other medical products.” Though the taxation system on the recreational market is still to be determined, Lucas stressed the importance for patients to access medical cannabis tax-free, in the same manner patients access other pharmaceuticals: “The federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as private insurance providers, have an opportunity to rectify the current disadvantage faced by medical cannabis patients. Medical cannabis must be treated consistently with other pharmaceutical products, and must be zero-rated”.

CMCC looks forward to partnering with the federal government as it adapts the medical cannabis regulatory framework while ensuring patient safety and access in a system that remains distinct and separate from the recreational market.

About CMCC

The CMCC represents stakeholders who are committed to advancing the highest standards of integrity, safety, quality, access, security and research within Canada’s medical cannabis industry. Members of CMCC have created, and abide by, the world’s first professional Code of Ethics designed to serve the best interests of medical cannabis patients. CMCC is committed to serving the needs of patients and works closely with its internal Patient Advisory Council.

For more information please contact:

Chrissy Roebuck
Pomp & Circumstance PR
chrissy@pomppr.com

Long-term Study Reveals No Link Between Cannabis Use and Cardiovascular Disease

Long-term Study Reveals No Link Between Cannabis Use and Cardiovascular Disease

Prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s one reason that long-term health studies can be so immensely valuable. For example, it was the decades-long gathering and interpretation of large amounts of medical records, crossed with lifestyle data, that proved conclusively the cause-and-effect relationship of tobacco use with cancer, heart disease and a long list of other maladies.

Such studies are just as valuable when they reveal a negative correlation. What a relief that studies of cell phone use and brain cancer revealed no link between the two. Or that vaccinations had no effect on rates of autism.

So it was good news when results from a long-term study were published recently, concluding “neither cumulative lifetime nor recent use of marijuana is associated with the incidence of CVD in middle age.”

The study’s credibility is strengthened by its methodology, where the health of over 5,000 adults was followed for more than 25 years, during which 84% of sample reported a history of cannabis use.

What this could mean for patients who might benefit from the medical use of cannabis is that some healthcare practitioners may reconsider their previously-held negative opinions of the drug, and be more amenable to accepting it as a viable medicine, one that they can now recommend with increased confidence they will not compromise their oft-stated primary professional responsibility, which is to “do no harm.”

 

Big increase in medical cannabis registration, but still a long way to go

Big increase in medical cannabis registration, but still a long way to go

First, the good news: By the end of September, 2016, approximately 100,000 Canadians were legally registered with Licensed Producers to obtain medical cannabis. This is an astonishing increase of nearly 70,000 (233%) compared to the same period a year earlier. At the same time, the number of physicians writing authorization documents also increased over 200%. That said, the actual number of enlightened doctors remains too small, particularly in rural areas.

What continues to be discouraging, however, is the lack of medical cannabis knowledge available from most physicians, even as more and more patients seek advice on the subject. Although there’s a growing number of online physician-directed resources and conference presentations on medical cannabis, the fact remains that most doctors graduated from medical schools that provided little or no information on cannabis in the treatment of illness.

Family doctor and professor at the University of Toronto Alan Bell observes that, “As physicians, we are very reluctant to authorize the use of any medications without adequate education. That’s a real barrier.”

Further objections come from the fact that cannabis treatment has not yet been subjected to the amount of rigorous testing applied to conventional prescription medicines. Although extracts—with precisely measured levels of cannabinoids such as CBD—are now legally available, standard dosages have not yet been established. Whole flower cannabis, preferred by many patients, comes in a bewilderingly wide variety of strains, each of which can vary significantly in potencies and ratios of active ingredients. All of this bolsters the unwillingness of a doctor to advise patients to “take three puffs and call me in the morning.”

Where does this leave the patient who, for example, suffers from chronic pain and the often-debilitating side effects of the conventional pain medications such as opioids? Perhaps they’ve heard that cannabis may help and are eager to try it, but can’t find a physician or healthcare practitioner in their community willing to write the medical document necessary to obtain medical cannabis legally from a Licensed Producer.

This lack of access to the legal system compels many patients to obtain untested black market cannabis from a local supplier who may or may not have patients’ best interests at heart.  

We’re witnessing a movement that’s perhaps unprecedented in modern medicine, where members of the general public appear to be leading the way, educating themselves (and, often, their physicians) on methods that may provide safe, effective relief for themselves or loved ones.

CMCC’s member LPs are working to rectify this situation through direct outreach and education initiatives aimed at healthcare providers and the non-profit patient organizations that make up the CMCC Patient Advisory Committee are committed to improving safe access to medical cannabis for critically and chronically ill Canadians who might benefit from its use.

To learn more, please click here to check out our video highlighting our current patient access initiatives. 

Canadian Medical Cannabis Council Reacts to Legalization Task Force

Canadian Medical Cannabis Council Reacts to Legalization Task Force

Ottawa, ON – Philippe Lucas, Executive Director of CMCC today released the following statement regarding the release of the report by the Federal Task Force on Legalization: “We applaud the task force for a progressive report that strongly supports a secure, stable medical cannabis system. CMCC welcomes both the explicit recommendation for maintaining a separate medical access framework – which is important to ensuring patient access and safety – and for affirming a commitment to promote and support pre-clinical and clinical research.  More research will serve to reinforce messages pertaining to responsible use, and to the use of cannabis in the treatment of a variety of conditions.”

“However, we were concerned to see the recommendation of the task force that the medical system should be taxed in the same way as non-medical cannabis products.  It is long past time for federal, provincial and territorial governments to make medical cannabis tax free. By treating medical cannabis consistently with other pharmaceutical-grade products, governments nationwide can reinforce the importance of medical cannabis as a treatment option for patients across Canada, and serve to destigmatize the use of cannabis to treat a variety of chronic conditions.” 

CMCC looks forward to continued engagement with government as its continues to develop a policy framework that ensures patient safety and strengthens patient access in a framework apart and separate from a recreational market.

About CMCC

The CMCC represents stakeholders who are committed to advancing the highest standards of integrity, safety, quality, access, security and research within Canada’s medical cannabis industry.  Members of CMCC have created, and abide by, the world’s firth professional Code of Ethics designed to serve the best interests of medical cannabis patients.  CMCC is committed to serving the needs of patients and works closely with its internal Patient Advisory Council.

Contact

For more information please contact:

Philippe Lucas
Interim Executive Director
Canadian Medical Cannabis Council
plucas@medicalcannabiscouncil.ca
o: 250.824.9567
c: 250.588.1160 

 Does medical cannabis improve cognitive function?

Does medical cannabis improve cognitive function?

Among the most commonly-reported effects of cannabis ingestion is temporary disruption of short-term memory (i.e., “What were we just talking about?”). But what effect, if any, does medical cannabis have on other cognitive functions? 

A tantalizing glimpse comes from a report issued on PubMed.gov in October of this year. It measured executive function of 24 individuals who medicated with cannabis for a 3-month period.

Using results from measurement techniques such as the Stroop Color Word Test (where the written colour name differs from the colour of ink in which it is printed) and the Trail Making Test (which asks the participant to connect a set of 25 dots in a specific order) the researchers found that a significant percentage of subjects exhibited varying degrees of improvement in test speed and accuracy.

A number of patients also reported improvements in sleep and a lessening of symptoms of depression. Encouragingly, the study also continues to substantiate a relationship between use of medical cannabis and a corresponding decrease in the use of conventional pharmaceuticals, with opiate use declining more than 42%.

Once again, we see compelling evidence supporting the need for further research into the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis.

Health Canada Reports Increasing Use of Cannabis and Cannabis Vaporization

Health Canada Reports Increasing Use of Cannabis and Cannabis Vaporization

On November 9th, Health Canada released a report with its most recent data on tobacco, alcohol and drug use. The report compared the incidence of use of these materials in 2015 with a similar study done for 2013.

Of particular interest to CMCC blog readers is the part of the report dealing with cannabis use. Specifically:

• Past-year use of cannabis increased slightly from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2015.

• Among past-year cannabis users, 24% reported using cannabis for medical purposes.

Of note, more than a quarter (28%) of past-year cannabis users reported vaporizing it.

To the unfamiliar, vaporization utilizes a device (vaporizer) that heats cannabis to a temperature high enough to release cannabinoids and terpenes as vapour, but too low to ignite or burn the cannabis, producing smoke. The vapour is then inhaled, providing a discrete method of ingestion resulting in rapid onset of effect. Some vaporizers are designed to be used with dry cannabis material. Others (so-called “vape pen” models) use screw-on cartridges filled with a concentrated cannabis extract oil.

Vaporization may be preferred by those concerned with the potential risks and irritation associated with smoking. Relative to smoking, vaporization is practically odourless, and this change in patterns of use away from smoking represents a significant health-conscious shift byt both patients and recreational users.

However, much like “edibles,” (cannabis infused foods), Health Canada regulations currently prevent Licenced Producers (LPs) from offering patients vape cartridges. Somewhat paradoxically, LPs are authorized to offer cannabis extracts as drops (which are then added to food or beverages to make edibles).

Since it appears use of e-cig style vaporizers is gaining considerable popularity, not having vape cartridges available from their LP necessarily compels some patients to patronize a (technically illegal but commonplace) cannabis dispensary in order to access this safer ingestion option. In such a case, however, the patient would no longer be assured of the quality and purity legally required of products provided by a Licensed Producer under the ACMPR.

CMCC has always supported and championed policies that increase patient access options, be it the regulation and legalization of storefront dispensaries and/or allowing LPs to produce increasingly popular products like vape pens. In light of this report and in the best interest of our patients we’d like to repeat our calls to the government to modify the ACMPR regulations to allow LPs the option of adding vaporizer oil cartridges to their product offerings.

 

 

 

November is Osteoporosis Month

November is Osteoporosis Month

According to Osteoporosis Canada, one in three women and one in five men will break a bone due to osteoporosis. It’s a disease characterized by bones becoming extremely brittle due to a reduction in density. Brittle bones are much more likely to break in a fall. (Indeed, many people first discover they have osteoporosis when they seek medical attention for a bone-breaking fall.)

While there are many factors that can diminish bone health, the chance of acquiring osteoporosis clearly increases with age. This is particularly worrisome, as 20% of seniors who break a hip die within a year, due to complications. Anyone over 50 who breaks a bone should ask their healthcare practitioner for a test of bone density.

On a cellular level, healthy bone is constantly being replaced (most of your skeleton is actually fully replaced every ten years or so). Osteoporosis occurs when new bone cell generation is diminished.  

Most readers of this site are familiar with the importance of the endocannabinoid system in regulating physiological functions. Research has linked the system’s receptors (CB1 and CB2) to the development of age-related osteoporosis. Studies on mice revealed that these receptors protect bone by regulating the rate at which bone material is broken down and reabsorbed. These results point toward the possible use of cannabinoids such as THC and CBG in preventing bone degeneration.

Not coincidentally, age-related diseases appear to be driving increased use of cannabis among older adults. According to a recent CBS article, seniors are the fasted growing demographic for cannabis consumption in America.

What’s turning around the traditionally negative attitudes seniors hold toward cannabis? There are many, but certainly one important contributing factor is that the stigma once attached to cannabis use is diminishing(witness the progress toward fully legalizing cannabis in Canada). Another is the growing practice of supplementing or even replacing opioid pain medications with cannabis, the benefit being equal or better results along with fewer negative side effects. And, although medical research into the efficacy of cannabis is still in its early stages, that hasn’t stopped great numbers of older patients from trying this medicine, and finding out—for them—that it works.

To find out more about Osteoperosis Month, please visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dar.12323/abstract, and show your support by wearing your Purple Proud!

 

 

Patient Advocates Petition Government On Medical Cannabis Priorities

Patient Advocates Petition Government On Medical Cannabis Priorities

News on Canadians’ use of cannabis seems to center on the message that the government intends to fully legalize and tightly regulate the substance “sometime in 2017.” Beyond that, one can be forgiven in having the impression that progress toward that goal is effectively frozen in a maze of bureaucracy, investigative committees and businesses vying for prime positions in the anticipated “green rush.”

What can get lost in this cacophony are the voices of the people who, ultimately, may have the most to gain (and lose) in the final outcome of the legalization process: patients suffering from disease symptoms that might be effectively treated with cannabis.

In an effort to avoid that, three leading advocacy groups (all members of the CMCC Patient Advisory Committee) came forward on August 29 to present the Task Force on the Legalization and Regulation of Marijuana a brief intended to influence the government in addressing the needs of existing and potential medical cannabis patients. (The complete submission can viewed and/or downloaded here.)

The recommendations were presented in a shared statement from The Arthritis Society, the Canadian AIDS Society and Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana. The brief was signed by 14 supporters, including representatives of the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, among others.

The Executive Summary is a formal request for the Task Force to include the signatories in working toward enacting policies that preserve and extend affordable access to medical cannabis, while facilitating further research.

The specific recommendations:

1. Patients must have access to a supply of medical cannabis in all its forms and potencies that is regulated for safety, potency and quality.

2. Patients must have access to a reliable supply of medical cannabis through a variety of distribution options.

3. Patients must be informed about how to access medical cannabis as well as safe and effective use of different forms of medical cannabis (e.g., concentrates, dried flowers, edibles, etc.).

4. Medical cannabis is a medical necessity and its cost should not be subject to GST, HST or provincial sales tax.

5. The regulatory approach to medical cannabis must enable health insurance plans, both public and private, to be able to reimburse for medical cannabis as they do now for prescription drugs.

6. The federal government must actively expand the evidence base on the medical use of cannabis through enhanced support and promotion of medical cannabis research.

7. The federal government must use additional policy levers at its disposal to help support and promote research into medical cannabis.

While all the recommendations are valid, we call particular attention to the calls for lowering costs to patients. There is currently an arbitrary distinction between cannabis and other medications in terms of taxes and insurance coverage, which acts as a formidable obstacle to patient access. We support a zero-rating tax classification on cannabis, and expanding coverage by private and public insurance providers.  

Accordingly, it’s appropriate to take this opportunity to call attention to CMCC’s Parliamentary petition to compel Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) to cover the costs of medical cannabis extracts. We have 400 of the 500 signatures needed to get Parliament to consider this petition, so–if you haven’t already done so–we urge you to sign the petition here

Cost continues to be an obstacle to access to medical cannabis, and the CMCC is proud to work with LPs, policy makers, insurers, and patient organizations to ensure that in the near future, any Canadian who can benefit from the medical use of cannabis can access it, regardless of income or socio-economic background.

CMCC welcomes Canadian Epilepsy Alliance as newest member of Patient Advisory Council

CMCC welcomes Canadian Epilepsy Alliance as newest member of Patient Advisory Council

TORONTO (September 2, 2016): Today, the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC) announced that the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance (CEA) has joined seven other leading patient groups from across Canada as the newest member of the medical cannabis industry’s first Patient Advisory Committee (PAC). The Committee works to ensure patients and their best interests are the focus of the practices, activities and policy advocacy of CMCC.

CEA joins other PAC members including the Canadian AIDS Society; Arthritis Society of Canada; Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM); The Wellness Soldier; ILC Foundation; Canadian Cancer Survivor Network and Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association.

“We are happy to welcome CEA to the CMCC, as we share the same core value of putting patient care first and amplifying the patient’s voice,” says Jonathan Zaid, CMCC PAC Chairman, representing CFAMM.

“CEA has been a long-standing, strong advocate for Canadians with epilepsy,” says Philippe Lucas, CMCC’s Interim Executive Director. “CEA is a welcomed addition to this dynamic group of organizations, whose voices will only become stronger with their presence.”

The Canadian Epilepsy Alliance works to raise awareness and address issues of national importance to people living with epilepsy, share resources and leverage partnerships so quality of life for those living with a seizure disorder will continue to improve.

“CEA was formed to give a stronger voice to Canadians with epilepsy,” says CEA’s Research and Advocacy Representative for Canadian Epilepsy Alliance, Alex Repetski. “I have seen the benefits of medical cannabis in the treatment of epilepsy first hand, and believe it can be of value to many people who are looking for more effective ways to treat seizure disorders. We are pleased to be joining CMCC’s Patient Advisory Committee, and look forward to working with our new partners to strengthen the voice of all advocates who are seeking ways of bringing medical cannabis-related patient care issues to the forefront.“

About the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance (CEA)

The Canadian Epilepsy Alliance (CEA) is a Canada-wide network of grassroots organizations dedicated to the promotion of independence and quality of life for people with epilepsy and their families, through support services, information, advocacy, and public awareness. For more information, please visit www.epilepsymatters.com

About the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC)

The Canadian Medical Cannabis Council is an industry group representing stakeholders who are committed to advancing the highest standards of integrity, safety, quality, access, security and research within Canada’s medical cannabis industry. All CMCC members are required to adhere to a Code of Ethics designed to serve patients’ best interests.

-30-

For more information, or to speak with a representative of CMCC, please contact:

Kristen Ryan, Director of Public Relations, Tilray
917-697-4443

kristen.ryan@tilray.com

Growing number of patients appear to be replacing prescribed opioids with cannabis

Growing number of patients appear to be replacing prescribed opioids with cannabis

A recent study from the University of Georgia suggests that a significant number of the elderly and disabled may be opting for treating themselves with cannabis, while lowering or even discontinuing their use of prescribed opioids.

This may be an important trend, in part due to the alarming rate of opioid overdoses plaguing North America.

There is no record of death from overdose of cannabis.

Those prescribed a regime of opioids (most commonly to relieve chronic pain) often complain of associated side effects such as constipation, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. By augmenting their treatment with cannabis, many either significantly reduce their use of opioids or stop taking them entirely. 

The study revealed that, over a year-long period, the number of daily doses of prescribed opioids dropped by 11%. Use lessened in those being treated for the symptoms most frequently cited as responsive to cannabis, such as pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. Tellingly, prescription use increased for treatment of diseases for which cannabis has been thought to have minimal efficacy.  

Another recent study, from the University of Michigan, reported that patients using cannabis to treat chronic pain exhibited a 64% reduction in the use of opioids.

Insurance coverage for medical cannabis is variable, but is growing in Canada, where 22% of reimbursements to veterans were for medical cannabis. Further, informed speculation points to a reduction of opioid use among this same group. This was highlighted in a recent article in The Globe and Mail on data provided by Veterans Affairs Canada showing a 30% decrease during the past four years of the number of veterans being prescribed benzodiazepines and a nearly 17% decrease in prescriptions for opioids during the same period.  

These results fuel optimism among medical cannabis advocates that physicians—who are obligated to provide the best available information and options to their patients—will increasingly accept the suitability of cannabis as a viable treatment that is not only effective, but safer.  

 

Extracts Coverage for Veterans E-petition

Extracts Coverage for Veterans E-petition

Veterans across Canada benefit from a medical insurance coverage program that is unmatched in most countries around the world. Since the inception of the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has covered the costs of whole-flower medical cannabis for veterans who are registered with a licensed producer. While this is a tremendous benefit, it has not been adapted to reflect the current options available to medical cannabis patients. In June 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling that legalized the use of medical cannabis extracts. While these products have been available for months, there is currently no medical cannabis extracts coverage available to veterans through VAC.

The CMCC is of the opinion that extracts should be covered by VAC insurance in addition to whole-flower medical cannabis. To this end, the CMCC has submitted an e-petition asking VAC to cover the cost of cannabis extract products for Canada’s military and law enforcement veterans this week.

We invite all Canadians who are interested in helping give back to our veterans to sign this e-petition by December 2, 2016 on the Parliament of Canada’s website

Study Reveals Attitudes On Cannabis Among Paediatric Oncology Practitioners

Study Reveals Attitudes On Cannabis Among Paediatric Oncology Practitioners

Certainly the majority of articles on the potential benefits of cannabis as a treatment for sick children have focused on a possible link between the cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD) and alleviation of symptoms with certain forms of childhood epilepsy. (For a compelling, optimistic and heartwarming example of such an article, watch the Tilray-produced video, Patient Story: Brandon.)

Doubtless due to the large and fast-growing body of anecdotal evidence suggesting a link between cannabinoids and effective treatment of a wide range of illnesses, attitudes are evolving among a large portion of the healthcare community.

Evidence for this powerful trend was quantified recently in a report released through the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) at their annual meeting in June.

The report presented results of a 2016 survey sent to 654 paediatric oncology providers at three United States cancer centres. Over 300 providers participated, all of whom practiced in states which have legalized medical cannabis (specifically, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington). The survey was intended to reveal attitudes and awareness regarding the application of medical cannabis in children with cancer.

Among the findings:

·      92% of respondents said they would be willing to assist paediatric cancer patients to obtain medical cannabis. 

·      88% agreed that medical cannabis would be appropriate in palliative (end of life) cases, while only 34% thought it appropriate for treating early stages of cancer.

·      30% of respondents had received requests within the past 30 days

·      for medical cannabis. Half of those requests were facilitated.

·      46% said the main reason they were reluctant to recommend cannabis was the lack of standards regarding formulations, potency and dosage.

Despite a lack of directly comparative data, it is apparent that attitudes among childhood cancer care providers regarding medical cannabis—at least in states that have legalized medical cannabis—have changed significantly. Fully nine out of ten now have an opinion positive enough that they’re willing to assist patients in obtaining cannabis. 

What also seems clearly evident is that recommendation of cannabis as medicine will increase if and when the substance can be standardized in a manner similar to conventional medicines. Most doctors demand verified, consistent and controlled specifications such as potency and dose. This issue may be at least partially addressed through the growing availability of precisely manufactured and tested cannabis extracts. Indeed, standardization may convince more doctors to consider cannabis among the first line of treatment options (rather than just for relief in palliative cases).

This study shows that, increasingly, caregivers’ (both physicians’ and parents’) minds are opening to the potential cannabis may hold in the treatment of symptoms of childhood cancer. More research and development is, of course, necessary, but it’s clear that hope and optimism are growing (and justified!).  

 

 

Health Canada Report Shows Remarkable Increases in Cannabis Patients, Production and Sales

Health Canada Report Shows Remarkable Increases in Cannabis Patients, Production and Sales

In a report issued in late June, Health Canada provided market data on cannabis for medical purposes, with nearly all measured parameters showing very substantial increases over the one-year period of April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016.

Comparing first and fourth quarters, the amount of dried cannabis sold to patients increased 125%, (1,371 kg to 3,082 kg). Comparable production increased 116% (1,867 kg to 4,037 kg), while inventories at Licensed Producers (LPs) grew 96%, to 10,695 kg.

There were 23,930 registered medical cannabis patients at the end of June, 2015, a figure that by the end of March, 2016 had grown to 53,649– a 125% increase.*

Production of cannabis oils (extracts) skyrocketed by 597% between Q3 (128 kg) and Q4 (1421 kg), as more LPs gained authorization to manufacture and sell extracts. The growing popularity of extracts may be attributable to dosing standards more familiar to physicians, as well as by patient demand.

The only statistic that showed any degree of reduction was the average amount of cannabis per client shipment (a measure of usage rate), which went from 1.08 grams/day to 1.03 grams/day.

These figures support speculation that acceptance of cannabis as a viable treatment option is growing widely and quickly in Canada. This may be attributable to a number of factors, among them: 1) word of mouth among patients and their acquaintances about the positive outcomes of cannabis treatment, 2) further education of healthcare practitioners by representatives of Licensed Producers, which increases understanding and inspires a greater willingness to consider recommending cannabis to patients, and 3) increased media exposure that has portrayed medical cannabis in a positive light, influencing more patients to ask their healthcare practitioners about it.

Whatever the causes, this change in attitudes and behaviour must be seen as progress in the noble quest to alleviate human suffering.

Further detail of the report can be seen here.

*For comparison, the number of patients from June, 2014 to the end of May, 2015, increased by 10,598. During the same months 2015/2016, patient count increased by 29,719.

 

Does medical cannabis make patients feel better?

Does medical cannabis make patients feel better?

Yes (mostly).

That’s the conclusion of the first study by Israel’s Health Ministry of patients who have used cannabis for pain relief and other symptoms.

The results were culled from two years of interviews with 399 patients, 78 of whom had cancer. (Medical cannabis has been legal in Israel for over ten years.) Nearly all chose to use cannabis when more conventional drugs proved ineffective or produced unacceptable side effects.

Most (over 77%) experienced at least mildly undesirable side effects with cannabis, all of which may be familiar to experienced cannabis users, including increased appetite, fatigue, dry mouth, drowsiness and feeling “high.” However, only 7% discontinued cannabis due to side effects or from determining the treatment was ineffective.

The remaining 93% of patients in the study reported that cannabis had provided relief for a range of symptoms, including pain, nausea and anxiety.

The results of the study were presented at the International Jerusalem Conference on Health Policy, in May of this year. The study was headed by Professor Pesach Shvartzman of Ben-Gurion University.

20-year study reveals health effects of cannabis use

20-year study reveals health effects of cannabis use

In 1972 and 1973, 1037 children in New Zealand were chosen to participate in long-term studies of the effects of lifestyle behavior on physical health. One of those studies1 looked into the effect of cannabis and tobacco use on the health of these participants in the age period 18 to 38 years old. The results of this study were published this June.

Measurements were made of periodontal health, lung function, systemic inflammation and metabolic health, along with self-reporting, when participants were at ages 26 and 38 years.

The study also looked at tobacco use in the same group. As expected, tobacco use was associated with impaired lung function, systemic inflammation and metabolic health.

None of these effects was associated with cannabis use. The only health issue correlated with 20-year persistent use of cannabis was an increase in periodontal disease.

Another good reason to floss.

1JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Jun 1. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.0637. [Epub ahead of print]

 

 

Canadian Medical Cannabis Comes of Age; Overview of the Lift Expo TO 2016

Canadian Medical Cannabis Comes of Age; Overview of the Lift Expo TO 2016

Brash, bold, professionally branded and (in some cases) barely legal. Canada’s medical cannabis industry is these things and so much more. And as the recent Lift Expo 2016 showed, it’s certainly never boring. From a Spanish seed company with a fold-out foosball table, to pure strain-specific terpene extracts by Marcus Richardson/Blue River Extracts, to cooking demos by veteran Cody Lindsay (Wellness Soldier) using Tilray oils, to Tokyo Smoke’s bike-powered espresso machine, to fancy booths and high tech displays by the nation’s Licensed Producers, all facets of the of Canadian medi-cannabiz were on display at Lift Expo TO 2016.

Featuring dozens of vendors and thousands of attendees, the event was certainly well attended and reflective of the many patient and corporate interests that make up Canada’s medical cannabis industry. Despite taking place in the immediate aftermath of Project Claudia - the most significant dispensary crackdown in Canadian history - the mood was overwhelmingly friendly, optimistic, cooperative & future-facing, but also somewhat tinged by an under-current of fear and frustration stemming from the raids.

The Canadian Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC) was a Platinum sponsor of the event, and Peace Naturals Project, Tilray, Delta 9 and RedeCan all had displays and staff on-hand at the large CMCC area and the flow of interested patients and  healthcare practitioners was practically non-stop. On Sunday at 11am, I had the honor of moderating a panel titled “PATIENT-CENTERED ACCESS TO MEDICAL CANNABIS IN CANADA; AN INTIMATE DISCUSSION WITH 4 INDUSTRY LEADERS”. The speakers were Rick Redekop, CEO of RedeCan; Greg Engel, CEO of Tilray; John Arbuthnot, VP of Delta 9 BioTech; and Mark Gobuty, CEO of Peace Naturals Project.

The panel kicked off with a brief overview of CMCC and our Patient Advisory Committee, and I then highlighted our primary lobbying initiatives, which focus on lowering patient costs and increasing access:

• Eradicate kickbacks and high patient fees

• End the taxation of medical cannabis

• Increase private and public cost-coverage of medical cannabis & reduce life insurance fees

• Push back on anti-vaping legislation

• Lobby for increased billing codes for physicians re. medical cannabis

• Allow patients to more easily migrate between LPs

• Allow community-based access through storefronts.

I shared the CMCC’s recent efforts to get Canadian private insurers to increase cost coverage for medical cannabis, and to no longer put authorized medical cannabis patients in the same rate class as tobacco smokers in regards to life insurance, both of which were the focus of a presentation I gave at the Canadian Life & Health Insurance Association Claims conference in May. This lobbying work gained extra poignancy when Sun Life announced in early June that it will now treat medical marijuana users the same as non-smokers when applying for life insurance.

The panel provided a unique opportunity to learn more about these industry leaders and the patient-centered policies of their various companies. Like so many other Canadians, everyone on the panel had a personal story about what brought them into this industry, such as the end-of-life use of cannabis by parents or siblings, and all the companies represented had discount programs in place to benefit low income patients. In light of the recent dispensary raids and accusations from some that LPs were in some way responsible for the actions of the Toronto Police Department, it may have surprised some in attendance to hear that these Licensed Producers are not opposed to dispensaries, and are actually actively lobbying all levels of government to regulate storefront access. The CMCC and its member LPs all believe that Canada’s medical cannabis program will inevitably include community-based access at some point in the near future.

We’d like to thank and congratulate the good folks at Lift for bringing all of Canada medical cannabis community under one roof to share what’s now, what’s new, and what’s next. The CMCC looks forward to the next occasion to gather together with all of the patients, businesses and advocates that have done so much to ensure that Canadian patients have safe access to medical cannabis.

June Is ALS Awareness Month

June Is ALS Awareness Month

Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neuromuscular disease characterized by motor nerve cell death and degeneration of voluntary muscles. Usually rapidly progressive, ALS claims the lives of 80% of its victims within two to five years of diagnosis. It’s estimated that currently 2,500 to 3,000 Canadians are suffering from ALS.

Many of us were first made aware of ALS from the “ice bucket challenges” that were so widespread and publicized last summer.

There is no known cure for ALS, but research toward treatment and an eventual cure is actively underway. Among the lines of that research are experiments to determine the possible role of cannabinoids in alleviating symptoms and significantly extending the lives of ALS patients.

Cannabinoids are complex compounds found in cannabis (and some other plants) that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoid system receptors appear throughout the body, with concentrations in the brain and central nervous system.

Animal studies at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco involving the administration of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol—a cannabinoid prevalent in cannabis) concluded, “Our research indicates that select marijuana compounds, including THC, significantly slow the disease process and extend the life of mice with ALS.” (M. Abood)

An article published in the American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine reports results from the University of Washington (G. Carter; B. Rosen) that concluded, “Marijuana is a substance with many properties that may be applicable to the management of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In areas where it is legal to do so, marijuana should be considered in the pharmacological management of ALS. Further investigation into the usefulness of marijuana in this setting is warranted.”

In March of this year, ALS Canada announced the first recipients of the Clinical Management Grant, providing funding for a pilot study focusing on “cannabinoids for symptom management in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.” This research will involve ALS patients in an assessment of the safety and efficacy of varying ratios of THC and CBD (cannabidiol), monitoring possible effects on measures such as pain, spasticity, mood, sleep and appetite.

We at CMCC thoroughly endorse research in this vital area and remain optimistic that medical cannabis will be proven to provide relief and possibly life extension for those with ALS.

Those who would like to know more about ALS and how to participate in ALS Awareness Month are encouraged to visit ALS Canada.