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Keep Canada’s Medical and Adult-Use Systems Separate, Researchers Say

July 17, 2017
As Canada works towards next year’s launch of an adult-use cannabis market, there are still some key regulatory issues to hammer out. One of which is how the country should handle its existing medical marijuana program.

A pair of pharmacology researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, want to see officials separate medical and adult use. Such a system, they argue, would keep patients safe by assuring the quality of medical cannabis.


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In an op-ed published in the latest issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, professor Melanie Kelly and PhD student Elizabeth Cairns endorse a recommendation initially proposed by the Liberal government’s task force on cannabis legalization and regulation aimed at keeping the nation’s two so-called cannabis “streams”—medical and recreational—separate and distinct.

“[Patients] are potentially looking for a totally different product,” Cairns said, “and there’s no guarantee with a market that’s recreationally driven that that product will be maintained and sold.”


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Combining the programs, she added, could end up disappointing patients and recreational consumers alike.

“With recreational cannabis, what you’re looking for is intoxication—that is not necessarily the case for medicinal cannabis,” Cairns said.

There were three main points that Cairns and Kelly argued to keep a dual-stream approach. It would help decrease patient stigma that could result from lumping medical consumers into the “recreational” market, they say, and would protect the strains and other medical cannabis products that have desirable effects for patients but may not interest recreational buyers.

The authors also say separate systems would drive clinical research into therapeutic uses for cannabis and give health-care providers an incentive to be up-to-date on the latest research.

Not everyone in Canada is for keeping the two programs separate, however. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has recommended that just a single stream be used once adult-use cannabis is legalized. The CMA argues that more research should be conducted on cannabis before it be approved for widespread medicinal use.

“We accept that [people] say they have benefited from using cannabis, but there’s no or very little research behind that,” said Dr. Granger Avery, president of the CMA. “Until we have research and the real information behind it, we’re not in favor of endorsing it for medical intervention.”


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Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • Turner Kayston

    “We accept that [people] say they have benefited from using cannabis, but there’s no or very little research behind that,” said Dr. Granger Avery, president of the CMA. “Until we have research and the real information behind it, we’re not in favor of endorsing it for medical intervention.”

    We exist in a time where nearly all of us have been trained to put our trust in so called experts, most especially in the terminally schooled (not educated), with the CMA clearly being no exception, especially if they really believe that there is “very little research”.

    Many of the plebs of today are trained to believe that some undefined expert – someone out there – is better able to find solutions, possesses more genius, has more knowledge and is in general more competent and thus more worthy of trust than we are, to ourselves.

    Scientists and researchers, nearly everyone forgets are people and they suffer from the same limitations and problems all people do, irrespective of Ph. D. status. Greed is just one of them.
    Historian Steven Shapin, relates…

    “The historical case for the existence of knowledge without prejudice is not good. Knowledge free of prejudice has not been obtained in historical practice and it is probably impossible to obtain in principle.”

    To paraphrase Paul Krugman (he was talking about economics), science has very much the psychology of a cult. It’s devotees believe that they have access to the truth that generations of differently thinking humans have somehow failed to discern; they go wild at the suggestion that maybe they’re the ones who have an intellectual blind spot.

    I can go on and on…

    Good article and I just wanted to reply to that one part. =)

  • Mike hunt

    I beleive the lines between medical and recreational cannabis have long since been blured. Individuals use cannabis for a number of reasons, to say one is a medical user and another is recreatinal is absurd.

    I use it to relax at night son i can easily go to bed, to return to a more positive mindset after dealing with people all day, to release tension in muscle after long day at work, to chill out and have fun, to break the barriers to better connect to other people.

    I say I use recreationaly and medicaly at the same time. I agree there should be two tiers of cannabis but it should be available to anyone.