A pioneer in the Canadian medical cannabis space, Hilary Black was invited this September to participate in a stakeholder roundtable with the Liberal task force on legalization. It was at that session that Black, both founder of the country’s first compassion club and Bedrocan’s Director of Patient and Community Services, recognized an important omission in their process.
The government’s task force, mandated to examine recreational cannabis reform, outlined plans to hold special meetings with many stakeholders, including youth and First Nations on the topic, but not patients. That prospect concerned Black, who then worked with her colleagues Jonathan Zaid, head of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, Lynne Belle-Isle of the Canadian AIDS Society and Janet Yale of the Arthritis Society. With their network of allies in the medical cannabis community, they were able to create a patient session for the task force, which took place before consultations closed last week.
“I was honoured to be a part of a dedicated team of patient advocates who successfully completed an important initiative to ensure the task force on cannabis legalization heard directly from medical patients,” she says. “It feels like the culmination of 20 years of fighting for patients’ rights.”
Hosted by The Arthritis Society in Toronto, the discussions included a diverse group of patients assembled from across the country. The participants outlined to the Liberal task force and members of Health Canada what their needs are, and how future cannabis reform should prioritize patients.
Particularly, the task force asked participants to answer two overarching questions: What are Canadian medical cannabis patients most concerned about? And what would a system that meets the needs of that community look like? The discussions also included a range of themes: access and affordability, the need for research, impaired driving and the stigma around cannabis, to the hope we will begin teaching about the endo-cannabinoid system in medical schools.
Other Key Discussion Issues:
Access: Participants said they were accessing needed cannabis products from a range of regulated and unregulated sources. They spoke of the merits and drawbacks of various distribution models, the desire to access medical cannabis from regulated storefronts, the benefits of pharmacies and concerns about liquor stores. Overall, participants called for a range of access options and desired specialized medical services.
Affordability: Participants said they were suffering financially for their medicine, in some cases remortgaging homes, spending a third of their disability cheques monthly and generally not being able to afford medicine. An approval status to help facilitate coverage from insurance providers, the removal of the sales tax from medical cannabis and the redistribution of profits from recreational cannabis sales were also discussed.
Variety: Participants said they were concerned about the general variety of cannabis products currently available in the regulated Canadian space. They expressed a willingness to access a wider range of medical products, including high-potency extracts, finished edibles and topicals.
Research: The task force was encouraged after the meeting to invest in research. Expanding the body of clinical evidence would, it was discussed: increase comfort with physicians, facilitate the development of clinical guidelines and fair hospital policies, and improve patient knowledge about cannabinoids, terpenes and dosing.
The organizers and participants are hopeful this fruitful discussion will translate into patients being prioritized in the task force’s recommendations and future legislation.
Bedrocan Canada was founded and will always operate as a medical cannabis company. Supporting the work of patient advocates across the country is a priority for Bedrocan Canada, especially at a time when patient access and affordability regulations are being rewritten.