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Wonder Weed

Forget stigma. Marijuana makes good medicine.

By Jason Santerre

Whether you inhaled in college or not, there’s no denying cannabis smoke has wafted its way throughout human history. The very pages of the first history books were made from hemp, the fibrous part of the cannabis plant. One such book, Pên-ts’ao Ching, is attributed to Emperor Shen-nong from 2,000 B.C. It lists many medicinal uses for marijuana, including alleviating menstrual fatigue, gout, rheumatism, and constipation.

And then anti-pot propaganda snuffed out any notion of marijuana as medicine throughout most of the 20th century. The list of reasons is too long and varied to go into here. Suffice to say, cannabis sativa was regarded as the “evil weed” and a gateway drug. But the smokescreen is clearing. And the medical community regards the herb as a cheap, bountiful, easy-to-grow medicine.

Canada’s wave of weed advocacy reached a new high, so to speak, when the federal government stated that Canadians must have “reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes.” According to Health Canada, those sources are licensed producers. Marijuana for Medical Purpose Regulations (MMPR) came into effect on March 31, 2014 and allowed doctors to prescribe marijuana for therapeutic reasons.

The province of Quebec wanted its own guidelines for prescribing marijuana under a research framework. However, under the federal MMPR program, the decision is now between patient and physician. To be eligible the patient must provide medical documentation confirming the diagnosis by a health care practitioner.

Dr. Marcia Gillman is a palliative care specialist with a particular interest in cannabinoid-based therapy. In an interview with The Gazette, she said, marijuana has “very promising therapeutic value” and it helped her patients deal with symptoms like pain, nausea, poor appetite, anxiety, and insomnia.

Adam Greenblatt, executive director and co-founder of Santé Cannabis, says that since opening in November of 2014, the cannabis clinic has seen over 600 patients with a plan to hit 1,000 a year. Greenblatt says doctors will recommend certain strains based on what’s worked for past patients with similar conditions. “It’s trial and error,” he says. “Everyone reacts differently so they try different strains to see what works since some are more stimulating while others are more sedating.”

“My gut feeling is that, in 10 years, there will be a legalized, recreational side and a medical side,” says Michael Rosen*, an entrepreneur who grows medical marijuana in the Montreal area. “The latter being pharmaceutical grade whereby the THC content is measured to the decimal point. I’m not sure pharmacies can handle the demand so maybe Canada will follow California’s lead and set up green-cross dispensaries.”

Michael applied for his MMPR license 30 months ago and, although his company is past the security clearance stage, his company is still waiting. “Under the MMAR license we have a small client base of people who require medicine and have been approved by their doctors,” he says. As for anyone who is still on the fence, Michael says pain sufferers have nothing to lose. “It doesn’t have to be smoked to get the medicinal effects. As a matter of fact, eating it in the form of baked goods will target the pain more effectively. There’s also vaping, which helps avoid the harshness of smoke.”

 

Spring 2016, Vol 8 N°2

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