CANNABIS :OUR POSITION FOR A CANADIAN PUBLIC POLICY; REPORT OF THE SENATE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ILLEGAL DRUGS - SUMMARY; Chairman: Pierre Claude Nolin, Deputy Chairman: Colin Kenny; SEPTEMBER 2002
Nevertheless, we do not doubt that for some medical conditions and for certain people cannabis is indeed an effective and useful therapy. Is it more effective than other types of medication? Perhaps not. Can physicians currently prescribe cannabis at a known dosage? Undoubtedly not. Should persons suffering from certain physical conditions diagnosed by qualified practitioners be permitted to use cannabis if they wish to do so? Of this, we are convinced.
The regulations made in 2001 by Health Canada, even though they are a step in the right direction, are fundamentally unsatisfactory. They do not facilitate access to therapeutic cannabis. They do not consider the experience and expertise available in compassion clubs. These regulations only govern marijuana and do not include cannabis derivatives such as hashish and cannabis oils.
It is for these reasons that the Committee recommends that Health Canada amend the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations in order to allow compassionate access to cannabis and its derivatives.
We observed that:
Ø The quality and effectiveness of marijuana, primarily smoked marijuana, have not been determined in clinical studies;
Ø There have been some studies of synthetic compounds, but the knowledge base is still too small to determine effectiveness and safety;
Ø Generally, the effects of smoked marijuana are more specific and occur faster than the effects of synthetic compounds;
Ø The absence of certain cannabinoids in synthetic compounds can lead to harmful side effects, such as panic attacks and cannabinoid psychoses;
Ø People who smoke marijuana for therapeutic purposes self-regulate their use depending on their physical condition and do not really seek the psychoactive effect;
Ø People who smoke marijuana for therapeutic purposes prefer to have a choice as to methods of use;
Ø Measures should be taken to support and encourage the development of alternative practices, such as the establishment of compassion clubs;
Ø The practices of these organizations are in line with the therapeutic indications arising from clinical studies and meet the strict rules on quality and safety;
Ø The studies that have already been approved by Health Canada must be conducted as quickly as possible;
Ø The qualities of the marijuana used in those studies must meet the standards of current practice in compassion clubs, not NIDA standards;
Ø The studies should focus on applications and the specific doses for various medical conditions; and
Ø Health Canada should, at the earliest possible opportunity, undertake a clinical study in cooperation with Canadian compassion clubs.