News Release Article from  Health Canada

Government of Canada Announces New Steps to Help the Medical Community with Marijuana for Medical Purposes

March 31, 2014

Ottawa, ON - Marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada and has not gone through the necessary rigorous scientific trials for efficacy or safety.

Health Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes.

As a result, the Government of Canada believes that this must be done in a controlled fashion to protect public health and safety.

Over the last several months, Minister Ambrose has been reaching out to the medical community to work together to address common concerns around the use of marijuana as a treatment, including the lack of dosage guidelines and appropriate health cautions. Health Canada is working with provincial and territorial medical and nursing licensing bodies to increase the information provided to them on how doctors and nurse practitioners are authorizing marijuana and in what quantities.

In addition, Minister Ambrose has directed Health Canada to work with secure commercial operators licensed to produce marijuana to enhance information-sharing with regulatory oversight bodies on how doctors and nurse practitioners are authorizing the use of marijuana.

Furthermore, Minister Ambrose has also asked Health Canada to work with the medical and scientific community, to produce an additional informational document on marijuana for medical purposes to help support doctors and nurse practitioners in making decisions.

We expect these new measures, including information on dosage guidelines, educational material and increased oversight, will decrease the potential for over prescribing and negative health impacts.

Quick Facts

  • Marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada.
  • The Marihuana Medical Access Program, introduced in 2001, went from a few hundred people to almost 40,000 which created consequences for public health, safety and security, as a result of allowing individuals to produce marijuana in their homes.
  • We heard from local mayors, fire chiefs, police officers and community members that there were serious health and safety concerns about the old program.
  • The medical community has asked the Government to work with them and share information.
  • There are potentially serious harmful effects from using marijuana beginning at a young age and it should not be promoted.
  • Youth are especially susceptible to the negative effects of marijuana use, including harmful effects on mental functioning and mental health including psychosis and schizophrenia.

Quotes

"I want to emphasize that marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. Health Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes."
Rona Ambrose
Minister of Health

"I continue to hear concerns from health professional organizations that dried marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. They want clearer guidance on safety and effectiveness and want authorizations to be monitored.  That is why I asked Health Canada to consult with provincial and territorial regulatory bodies, companies licensed to produce marijuana and other professional organizations to enhance information-sharing on how doctors and nurse practitioners are authorizing the use of marijuana."
Rona Ambrose
Minister of Health

"Medical regulatory authorities have serious concerns about prescribing a product like marijuana that is not an approved drug. Since marijuana can nevertheless be prescribed, it should be done in a way that allows us to exercise our duty to act in the public interest. We are encouraged by the direction given to Health Canada that licensed producers will share information about physician prescribers with us so it can be reviewed for quality assurance and complaint processes."
Rocco Gerace, MD
President, Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada 

"As public health advocates, we stress the importance of making clear to the public and to policy makers that marijuana is not a harmless drug, but an increasingly potent and addictive one that can harm school and work performance, brain maturation in the fetus and the adolescent, mental health, driving skills, and can cause physical harm to the respiratory system and various other organs."
Dr. Harold Kalant
Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada

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Media Enquiries:
Health Canada
(613) 957-2983

Michael Bolkenius
Office of the Honourable Rona Ambrose
Federal Minister of Health
(613) 957-0200

Public Enquiries:
(613) 957-2991
1-866 225-0709

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