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CMA clears the air ... again ... on marijuana

As marijuana use continues to be a highly-politically charged issue, Canadian Medical Association President Chris Simpson has issued a detailed statement on the association's position.

The statement came in the immediate wake of the CMA's General Council meeting and in response to a newspaper commentary by Conservative businessman David Asper. In that article, Asper called the CMA "disengenuous" for joining two other national medical organizations in refusing to endorse a Health Canada campaign on the dangers of the recreational use of marijuana for youth.

While the CMA was applauded by many delegates for its educational session on medical marijuana at GC, this was overshowed in the public eye by ongoing criticism by federal health minister Rona Ambrose and others about the CMA stance.

In direct response to Asper's comments, Simpson issued a statement inviting him to consider "elements and facts that go beyond the federal government perspective" including:

  • Concerns about the booming “medical marijuana” medical business with marijuana detailers now visiting physician offices to try and convince physicians that they should prescribe the product, even though there is little clinical evidence to ensure the product can be prescribed safely. At the GC, incoming CMA president-elect Dr. Cindy Forbes raised this concern from personal experience and the meeting was told by the head of the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada that such detailing would soon be banned by the federal government.
  • The fact marijuana has not been approved by the government for medical use, as happens with any other prescription medication and while recognizing that marijuana may have benefits for some patients, unless more clinical data on safety and efficacy is forthcoming, the CMA feels physicians are asked to prescribe this product "blindfolded". Interestingly, in her speech at the CMA, Ambrose applauded doctors for their "evidence based approach" to providing care but did not reference medical marijuana.
  • The negative impact of smoking marijuana on the health of individuals. A resolution adopted at GC stated CMA's opposition to smoking any plant materials.

Simpson reiterated why the CMA and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada declined to participate in the Health Canada advertising campaign.

To participate, he said, the CMA would have had to sign a confidentiality agreement "that would have limited the profession’s ability to comment freely on the campaign and the issue itself. "

He also noted the growing perception of marijuana use by youth as a political rather than a public health issue because of the government's attack on Justin Trudeau for his statements on marijuana use.

"As a non-partisan organization, the CMA does not endorse political parties and it was deemed that, following the withdrawal of two other medical organizations, the CMA would not proceed with this government-funded campaign," Simpson said.

“We support education on the effects of marijuana on young Canadians. And we look forward to when the political controversy dies down so that it will be possible for the education process to resume.”

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