The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is recommending that separate streams for medical and recreational marijuana be established once recreational marijuana becomes legal. A dual system would ensure that medical cannabis patients receive the benefit of clinical oversight, while implementing health and safety measures for recreational users.
Medical and recreational marijuana are fundamentally different products, intended for use in very different ways. Medical marijuana users may seek out strains that provide symptomatic relief, while recreational users may seek out those with psychoactive effects. Therefore, to ensure optimal health outcomes, Canadians requiring marijuana for medical purpose should receive it within a health care setting that provides appropriate clinical oversight. Patients who require marijuana for medical purposes should not be forced into the recreational market.
In addition to the recommendations about maintaining dual streams, CPhA also made the following recommendations:
- Introduce a public education campaign to coincide with legalization
- Establish a minimum age for legal purchase
- Mandate product warnings
- Implement rigorous product management regulations
- Mandate training for retail staff
Regardless of the framework chosen to provide access to recreational marijuana, it’s clear that access to a separate stream for medical cannabis must continue to be available to patients, with the continued oversight of a licensed health care professional. Diverting patients away from the existing medical stream to an untested system intended for recreational use could jeopardize patient safety.
CPhA also believes that a front-line role for pharmacists in the management and dispensing of medical cannabis is in the best interest of patient safety. In addition to providing secure and safe access to medications, pharmacists have the necessary expertise to mitigate the potential risks associated with using medical cannabis, including harmful drug interactions, contraindications and potential addictive behaviour.