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Legalized Pot: Implications for the Medical Community

This week Canada became the second country to legalize marijuana. Currently, government regulation permits the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but as of October 17, 2018 Canadians will legally be able to purchase marijuana for recreational purposes.

This begs the questions as to what’s in store for the medical marijuana industry. Some physicians are concerned current medical marijuana patients will stop seeing their HCPs and self-medicate through retail stores. Yet at the same time, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) believes medical marijuana shouldn’t have a separate regulatory framework, as they consider there to be insufficient evidence on its risks/benefits, dosage and interactions. This has been a topic of debate, however the government plans to keep the current framework in place.

Other considerations are also top of mind for the medical community and the CMA recommends a broad public health approach focused on:

  • preventing drug dependence and addiction;

  • providing assessment, counselling and treatment services for those who wish to stop using; and

  • increasing safety through harm reduction programs and awareness.

However, it is possible legalizing marijuana could also have some beneficial implications towards addiction medicine. Interestingly, data coming out of the US found a decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions and daily dose of opioids after states legalized marijuana. It will be interesting to see if similar trends are observed in Canada, as Canada is experiencing a growing opioid crisis.

Legalization is also providing more research opportunities, and researchers are gearing up to study the impact of legalization and strengthen the evidence around the risks/benefits of marijuana use. Until then we will keep a watchful eye on the impact legalization may have on Canada’s medical community.

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