Prescribing medical cannabis in Canada: Are we being too cautious?

Stephanie Lake, Thomas Kerr, Julio Montaner

Abstract


There has been much recent discussion and debate surrounding cannabis in Canada, including the prescribing of medical cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Certain commentators – including the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) – have denounced the prescribing of cannabis for medical purposes due to a perceived lack of evidence related to the drug’s efficacy, harms, and mechanism of action. In this commentary, we present arguments in favour of prescribing medical cannabis in Canada. We believe the anti-cannabis position taken by CMA and other commentators is not entirely evidence-based. Using the example of neuropathic pain, we present and summarize the clinical evidence surrounding smoked or vapourized cannabis, including recent evidence pertaining to the effectiveness of cannabis in comparison to existing standard pharmacotherapies for neuropathy. Further, we outline how the concerns expressed regarding cannabis’ mechanism of action are inconsistent with current decision-making processes related to the prescribing of many common pharmaceuticals. Finally, we discuss potential secondary public health benefits of prescribing cannabis for pain-related disorders in Canada and North America.


Keywords


Cannabis; medical marijuana; pain; Canada

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17269/cjph.106.4926