Jenna Valleriani: Health Minister Rona Ambrose better get with the medical cannabis program

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      In a statement on June 11, Canadian health minister Rona Ambrose reacted strongly to the Supreme Court ruling that medical cannabis should be available in all forms to patients using it for medical purposes. Not only is Ambrose “outraged”, she believes that it sends a message of normalization to Canadian youth and that there is no clear evidence on the efficacy of cannabis for medical purposes.

      But she’s wrong.

      It’s troubling that the health minister of Canada, a voice that is suppose to serve the public health interest of Canadians, still cannot admit that cannabis can be, and is, used for a variety of medical purposes.

      We should also be concerned that our health minister is having trouble with a decision made in the highest court of Canada. In a unanimous decision (7-0) effective immediately, the judges agreed that it was unreasonable to require users to smoke dried marijuana and that Canadians should not have to choose between their liberty and their health.

      Does that mean our constitutional rights simply don’t matter to Ambrose? Let’s not forget that the Harper government appointed seven of the nine judges of the Supreme Court of Canada. It’s frightening that our health minister not only lacks understanding of Canadian’s constitutional rights, but that she outright refuses to become better educated about cannabis as a medicine. Instead, she’d rather sit with her eyes and ears closed reaffirming that “cannabis is not a medicine”!

      If that were me in Ambrose’s position, I’d want to see the research too. Part of the job description entails the promotion and protection of public health. Unfortunately, her opinion is not based on current evidence, but century-old “reefer madness” propaganda that is really out of touch with current science. In fact, there are many credible institutions in North America producing peer-reviewed studies on cannabis—from the science to the sociology—and even more when we look to international leaders in this type of research, such as Israel and Spain. Even many of the current producers licensed under the federal program have made a trip to Israel to see what types of innovations are happening there in the medical cannabis world.

      Kirk Tousaw, the lawyer responsible for winning this case, said in a recent CBC News interview that Ambrose should “go back to her desk, and get to work on crafting a reasonable set of regulations that will stand up to charter scrutiny, that’s her job”. And he’s right. In Canada, it seems the judicial system is the only real way to make meaningful change—the entire medical cannabis program was a right won in the courts.

      We can’t forget about the children, says Ambrose, arguing that medical access in other forms will make pot seem “normal” to them. What about seven-year-old Liam McKnight with Dravet syndrome, whose mother has been breaking the law for nearly two years to provide cannabis in oil form to her son to manage his seizures? Or three-year-old Gwenevere Repetski who relies on the oil to manage her epilepsy? Does the health minister of Canada believe these children should smoke their medicine, or that their parents should be criminalized for extracting cannabis into oil form?

      To deny the experience of many Canadians without any proper education certainly seems to have become commonplace for the Harper government. But then again, it’s not like the Harper government has done a great job preserving our constitutional rights lately.

      With this ruling, it will be interesting to see the long-term impact on the federal medical marijuana program. A large, unanswered question revolves around whether or not this decision leaves room for commercial production of extracts for licensed producers in Canada. As many have suggested, the real future in the medical cannabis world lies in the availability of extracts and derivatives, particularly for many patients who are unable, for various reasons, to convert the dried forms on their own. What I do know is that the landscape is changing fast, and Ambrose better get with the program, or get out.

      Jenna Valleriani is a PhD candidate at the Collaborative Program in Addiction Studies at the University of Toronto. Follow Valleriani on Twitter: @jennav5.

      Comments

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      19 Comments

      Barry William Teske

      Jun 17, 2015 at 2:14pm

      Never have I thought people would lie or distort truth to gain or hold on to power.
      Thank you for proving me wrong Rona Ambrose.
      Is this a common trait of the Harper Government of Canada?
      Seems at the very least to be a bad habit in the forming.
      Get some help.
      Please.

      Bob Carter

      Jun 17, 2015 at 4:11pm

      If you are a licensed Cannabis Patient, and you need oils and extracts, you need a Compassion Club/dispensary membership, the Federal Government's licensed producers are still legally unable to produce or sell them.
      Search Compassion clubs/dispensaries, most are Storefront Retail, but some have mail order. It is unlikely that the Federal program will include Extracts before the election. e

      Donna Thibodeau

      Jun 17, 2015 at 5:23pm

      Awesome write-up...

      SMH at our Govt...

      FreedomFighter

      Jun 17, 2015 at 10:48pm

      If you are a licensed cannabis patient you should learn how to grow your OWN and make your OWN edibles and not rely on anyone other than yourself. Whether or not you're in the MMPR or MMAR, it it completely unconstitutional to force you to BUY it from black market priced Licensed Producers OR dispensaries and Judge Phelan in the Allard case will I'm sure, see it that way too.
      The avg requirement for the 50,000 approved patients so far is 16-18g/day. Top strains from LPs and dispensaries are $12-$15/g. That's $200/day,$1400/week, $5600/month or $66,200/year. More than the ENTIRE net income of someone making $40/hr. Even those making less than $25,000/year and who qualify for "compassionate pricing" at $5/g, that is still, $100/day, $700/week, $2800/month or 33,600/year...more than someone's ENTIRE disability income. That is NOT the "reasonable access" that previous court decisions have forced Health Canada to provide. Especially when that same 16-18g/day need can be safely and affordably grown at home for $100/month or $1200 for the ENTIRE year. They allowed that option for over 10 years and to now take that option away and threaten sick and dying Canadians with 6-9 month mandatory prison time in a 6x9 cell alongside murderers and rapists, for growing as few as 6 plants, when the avg patient has been allowed to grow 73, is barbaric and inhumane. And what about patients that require more than 16-18g/day? NOBODY can afford that. Period. For the Conservatives and NDP (who have no intention of repealing this law if voted in) to say "Canadians are not entitled to cheap medicine" is the biggest slap in the face to our most vulnerable citizens, who already have it bad enough. Rona Ambrose is supposed to represent ALL Canadians, not just the ones that fit into her misguided, uneducated, ideology. The ONLY way we will put an end to this lunacy for once and for ALL is to do what Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and the other States did, VOTE for the full adult legalization that Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals are finally offering and send these misfits to the unemployment line come Oct 19/2015. A vote for anyone else or not voting at all and you will be directly responsible for 4 more years of this lunacy. C-51 is going in regardless so if sacrificing a little "privacy" isn't worth the freedom of all cannabis users/growers, you need to wake up, and get off Facebook first.

      Medical Cannabis Mother

      Jun 18, 2015 at 5:50am

      @FreedomFighter... I agree 100% it is way to expensive!!! We are going further and further in debt to treat and save our daughter with this life saving "Medicine". She is on ODSP, I am off work with injuries and recovering from multiple surgeries, and I have no income. She MUST have medical cannabis to control her seizures as the pharmaceuticals do not work and cause more negative side effects that completely changes her/our quality of life. She has every right to enjoy her life and participate in activities with friends rather than staying in bed, nauseous and vomiting, wasting away from pharma side effects. She is alert, able to work and becoming more independent by the day using medical cannabis. I will vote for whomever is going to help us win this battle for her life and the lives of so many others.

      Realistic Joe

      Jun 18, 2015 at 6:23am

      The only reason why the average daily requirement of the 50,000 medical marijuana users is 14-16g a day is because people were issued sketchy permits to grow from backdoor doctors that didn't care that the herb was going into the black market. I believe in Medical and recreational marijuana, but so many thousands of people made such a mockery of the system and the Harper gvt knows it. I hope Trudeau wins and cannabis is finally legalized in Canada, for me it's one of the main topics in this election. But honestly 16g a day? Come on!!

      Jean Bonnez

      Jun 18, 2015 at 7:25am

      LP's are not doing a good job.

      Unavailable strains and other problems are regular.

      Dispensary is the proper way to go.

      Anonymous

      Jun 18, 2015 at 8:56am

      Yeah buying concentrates form the unregulated black market magicarry makes it legal because there's no legal option via the MMPR? I've seen the trash they sell... "trash to stash" with a little BHO wash in the worst conceivable ways. Sorry but the black market of "cash-in clubs" remains illegitimate and is in dire need of some regulated standards. And let's all just ignore the fact that they abuse it as a stage prop on the regular.... surely that lays the groundwork to have it available legally, right? Yeah, right. Let's all dance around that spastic drunk elephant in the room.

      Anonymous

      Jun 18, 2015 at 9:09am

      @Freedom Fighter, great points but when you're talking about ~20 grams a day, and as an average, nobody is going to take you seriously, that is absurd. And doing "slabs" aren't proven to be any more potent than say doing half a gram of herb in a quality vaporizer. Lot of nonsense going around and I suggest you don't support insane antics as it fundamentally undermines any reasonable positions of support. Also what Trudeau paid lip service to is not by any means "full adult legalization". Because that would imply not bs'ing to generate or maintain a false protectionism industry based on irrational fears that children need saving from it and therefore foster an environment where we have to keep lying about it and hiding our usage rather than promoting intelligent, responsible, adult usage. When he tables plans to allow more than the recreational universal 6 plants for even medical use then you let me know and until then he's just a mouthpiece for the American administration's drug agenda which you can read on their website. Calling that abomination "legalization" is redefining words rather than realities. But I absolutely agree, the systems are entirely farcical and treating them as if they're not so far only undermines our rights. People should learn to grow for themselves. They should also learn responsible use. Nobody is teaching them either thing tolerably, however. It's just another unregulated playground where people are being made victims of by a totally corrupt industry under the fake banner of compassion. That all needs to improve, but it won't. They all like it that way.

      Dave McKeen

      Jun 18, 2015 at 9:25am

      Growing my own would be great but I'm both a Senior and suffering from several medical conditions. As a Senior, I am no longer classified as disabled even though the condition and it's extra expenses are still here. I am also unable to effectively grow in my current location and I need a gram of oil a day to survive. All this on a pension of less than $18,000 a year (includes GST). Our current government is operating on the idea that punishment is more effective than praise and reward for right actions. As the saying goes, you attract more flys with Honey than .............. I hope I can survive until this election just to see Harper and his Ideology fail. Perhaps that should be idiotology! I'm already out of food for the month and if I'm lucky I have enough Cannabis Oil to make it until my next pension cheque. Then a month with food and insufficient medicine and so on and so on.