Lawyer Kirk Tousaw is gobsmacked by College of Physicians and Surgeons' approach to medical marijuana

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      Kirk Tousaw is an acknowledged authority on laws regarding marijuana. He's testified on several occasions before parliamentary committees on the topic.

      Tousaw also recently argued the landmark Owen Smith case before the Supreme Court of Canada.

      In this instance, the Conservative government is trying to overturn a B.C. Court of Appeal decision dismissing trafficking charges against Smith, who baked cookies for a compassion club.

      For years, Tousaw has been witnessing how governments have made it difficult for patients with serious medical conditions to obtain medical cannabis.

      But the B.C. lawyer declared that he was "absolutely gobsmacked" when he learned that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. had distributed a memo requiring doctors to adhere to an age limit on patients who may receive medical cannabis.

      "I mean, these are people who have had significant training in the sciences and in medicine," Tousaw said. "For that type of organization to publish a document or some guidelines that are so unscientific—that are so lacking in empirical justification—it just shows how much progress we still need to make to overcome some of the myths and the stigmas associated with the consumption of cannabis for medical purposes."

      The Straight reported this week that the physicians' regulatory body's professional standards and guidelines memo states that it's "not appropriate" to sign a medical document to allow anyone under 25 to have legal access to cannabis.

      Tousaw said he was shocked that this age limit was imposed when cannabis has been demonstrated as an effective treatment for a range of conditions, including Dravet Syndrome. It's a rare, lifelong, genetically caused form of epilepsy that begins in infancy.

      Medical cannabis is used as a pain reliever for conditions ranging from cancer to multiple sclerosis to Crohn's disease.

      "Epilepsy doesn't have an age limit," Tousaw scoffed. "Cancer doesn't have an age limit."

      In addition, the college memo concluded that cannabis shouldn't be used by people with cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, a substance-use disorder, a cannabis disorder, or a history of psychosis.

      The college's senior deputy registrar, Dr. Galt Wilson, told the Straight that the memo is now being revised to address input from doctors.

      Tousaw noted that marijuana is safer than prescription drugs that physicians already prescribe to children in appropriate circumstances.

      He declared that it's "shocking" for "a college to come up with a set of guidelines that is so divorced from empirical reality".

      Meanwhile, Kamloops emergency-room physician Ian Mitchell told the Straight earlier this week that the college's rules are "excessive" and "make it almost impossible for anybody to comply with them".

      Last month, Mitchell told the Straight that preliminary evidence suggests that medical cannabis might be effective in treating posttraumatic stress disorder.

      His research team hopes to recruit people this fall for a study looking at this issue in greater detail. They plan to pay special attention to an extract from marijuana plants known as cannabidiol, also known as CBD.

      Mitchell also said last month that CBD has been demonstrated in studies to be an effective antipsychotic.

      But according to the now-recalled memo from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C., doctors cannot make medical cannabis available to anyone who's demonstrated psychosis in the past.

      Tousaw said that he believes that the college risks having its medical-cannabis rules being found to be "patently unreasonable" by a judge.

      "If they put these kinds of shackles on individual physicians to the detriment of sick British Columbians, we will be in the courts pretty quickly," Tousaw emphasized. "We'll be looking at judicial review. At a certain point when you are causing suffering—make no mistake, they will be causing suffering with this—you should be held liable for that."

      Kirk Tousaw will join lawyer John Conroy at a Continuing Legal Education Society of B.C. seminar at the Pan Pacific Hotel or via live webinar on May 29. It will address the changing legal landscape for medical cannabis in Canada.




      Apr 23, 2015 at 6:47pm

      "Tousaw noted that marijuana is safer than prescription drugs that physicians already prescribe to children in appropriate circumstances."

      And inappropriate circumstances. For example, SSRI anti-depressants have never been tested and approved for young people.

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      Michael Kaer

      Apr 24, 2015 at 3:26am

      Doctors are totally fine giving extremely toxic substances like chemo therapy to children. Why are they so against a naturally safe NON-TOXIC plant that CANNOT HARM you? The Doctors stand to lose billions when people find out they do not need them anymore for everyday health and they will go back to setting bones and stitching people back up. Big Pharma is also losing profits daily as we speak. Cannabis is here to stay. Get used to it.

      joanne danik

      Apr 24, 2015 at 11:10am

      Thank you! We need MORE lawyers to join forces and get this issue done with!

      Michael Dussault-Jensen

      Apr 24, 2015 at 11:18am

      As the President and CEO of Dads for Marijuana International I am appalled, also as a father. When a patient that is ill and is in need of a specific medicine how the hell does the age of the individual legislate the effectiveness of the treatment? It does not and age is not a basis to restrict anyone from being helped. But if they do this and children that need it go without due to legislation it is NUTS, no child should be affected by these laws if their sick. We are not talking about teens partying or anything like that I will also state. We are speaking of life value threatening diseases that cannabis does work for and there is proof of its effectiveness in cases of epilepsy and many other diseases. As usual the Canadian (Harper) Government has chosen to cash in and ignore the peoples rights as though they know what is best.
      A reminder would be that they work FOR US and that their behaviors are unacceptable to the majority of Canadian citizens


      Apr 24, 2015 at 12:45pm

      37 years of spine and leg pain treated myself using cannabis, opiates are not a long term aide, its for temp relief, and if I can use it his long with no adverse effects, this college can quit pretending to be people of science...this is directly coming from BIG PHARMA....they give Drs their kickback cash and gifts of trips etc...follow the money you will find the puppeteers

      Tom Berkeley

      Apr 24, 2015 at 8:36pm

      I have been a Health Canada approved Med Mar patient since 2007. I am 69 yrs old and have "end stage" COPD. Briefly, I suffered serious brain injury due to anoxic shock (lung failure) and spent approx. 1 month in a pharm coma @ Burnaby General. Since the incident, I have been medicating myself by ingesting the medication but, since moving to a "brain injury" facility on Vancouver Island, I haven't been able to renew my prescription. Any suggestions?

      Erica K

      Apr 25, 2015 at 5:51am

      I do agree that cannabis is beneficial in situations like cancer, epilepsy, etc. the college of physicians and surgeons is being responsible in not allowing patients with a history of psyhosis to use cannabis. Cannabis dramatically increases your chances of psychosis and schizophrenia (but also has a strong genetic component with this fact, so maybe with testing the lower-risk people should still be allowed access).

      Nadine Bews

      Apr 25, 2015 at 6:21am

      Kirk is finally 'gob-smacked' over the BC Physicians decision to limit the age of medicinal cannabis patients but the wise soothe-sayer had naught to say for the past decade on the matter of Alberta doctors refusing to sign MMAR forms and instead directing them to his pals at MCRCI and charging patients usury-like fees no less than $500 per signature and a phoney Skype analysis of their medical problem...Kirk my dear you are a product of your environment and by that I mean that you were obviously mentored by Conroy.

      Dee Chardain

      Apr 25, 2015 at 12:03pm

      Weed is a powerful plant medicine & need be respected as such - not abused for inebriation.

      Yeh - point well taken that plenty of pharma has been, and still is, mis-prescribed for the greed-profit motive of the pill-pushing frankensteinocracy ... and sure - big alchohol/tobacco ain't no angel either ... but let's speak truth about cannabis. Much of what passes for medical marijuana is a sham.

      I know of what I speak ... I smoked weed for 40+ years until I smartened up & realized I was using weed as a crutch instead of facing & curing my anxiety-management history through learning to upgrade my inner-life frequencies.

      I've witnessed plenty of friends & acquaintances go for the medical marijuana licence with a smirk & wink of the eye ... instead of healing their inner health.

      Gandhi said: "Be the change you want to see in the world." Buddha said in his 8 fold path: "Right Effort." All the Self-help thinkers say the same thing: "The Power of Positive Thinking." Jesus/Yashua/Michael (whatever name you want to use) said: "to them who overcome will find everliving life." ... Cabeesh ... Are you getting it? It ain't given to us on a silver platter. This is a free-will co-creative dimension.

      Nowadays the know-it-all weed-gurus are pushing their GMO-ed franken-weeds (thru successive breeding). Lots of ganja psychosis these days. Wake up & live people!

      S McG

      Apr 27, 2015 at 10:27am

      I have seen first hand the positive effects medicinal cannabis can have on people under 25. I was one of them. The whole system is disgusting, people are being pushed to the again. If a doctor won't prescribe it, is a parents supposed to let their kid suffer, or risk getting caught buying illegally? Is a young, sick person going to get a criminal record when they are merely trying to obtain medicine to help them function? Sounds like Harper is trying to fill his superjails.
      I really hope they start looking at the actual evidence instead of federally spread misinformation.