Canada is on the cusp of an unprecedented change in its governmental approach to recreational cannabis consumption. By July of 2018 the country will legalize and regulate recreational cannabis use across the country via the implementation of the Cannabis Act, representing the second country in the world and the first in North America to do so. As other countries around the world struggle with illegal cannabis consumption, the Canadian example and novel regulatory scheme could prove a useful guiding tool for future policy in other jurisdictions. The following paper discusses key areas to watch and a brief intro of how Canada got to where it is and the foundational need for a shift in policy.
Cannabis has been employed medicinally throughout history, but its recent legal prohibition, biochemical complexity and variability, quality control issues, previous dearth of appropriately powered randomised controlled trials, and lack of pertinent education have conspired to leave clinicians in the dark as to how to advise patients pursuing such treatment. Suggestions are offered on cannabis-drug interactions, patient monitoring, and standards of care, while special cases for cannabis therapeutics are addressed: epilepsy, cancer palliation and primary treatment, chronic pain, use in the elderly, Parkinson disease, paediatrics, with concomitant opioids, and in relation to driving and hazardous activities.
Prospective analysis of safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in large unselected population of patients with cancer
Cancer is a major public health problem as the leading cause of death. Palliative treatment aimed to alleviate pain and nausea in patients with advanced disease is a cornerstone of oncology. In 2007, the Israeli Ministry of Health began providing approvals for medical cannabis for the palliation of cancer symptoms. The aim of this study is to characterize the epidemiology of cancer patients receiving medical cannabis treatment and describe the safety and efficacy of this therapy. Cannabis as a palliative treatment for cancer patients seems to be well tolerated, effective and safe option to help patients cope with the malignancy related symptoms.
Heavy Cannabis Use Associated With Reduction in Activated and Inflammatory Immune Cell Frequencies in Antiretroviral Therapy-Treated Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Individuals
Cannabis is a widely used drug in the United States, and the frequency of cannabis use in the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected population is disproportionately high. Previous human and macaque studies suggest that cannabis may have an impact on plasma viral load; however, the relationship between cannabis use and HIV-associated systemic inflammation and immune activation has not been well defined. While the clinical implications are unclear, our findings suggest that cannabis use is associated with a potentially beneficial reduction in systemic inflammation and immune activation in the context of antiretroviral-treated HIV infection.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome, characterized by chronic musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and mood disturbances. There are nearly no data on the effect of medical cannabis (MC) treatment on patients with fibromyalgia. Medical cannabis treatment had a significant favorable effect on patients with fibromyalgia, with few adverse effects.
The Use of Cannabis and Cannabinoids in Treating Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis: a Systematic Review of Reviews
Pharmaceutical cannabinoids such as nabiximols, nabilone and dronabinol, and plant-based cannabinoids have been investigated for their therapeutic potential in treating multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms. This review of reviews aimed to synthesise findings from high quality systematic reviews that examined the safety and effectiveness of cannabinoids in multiple sclerosis. We examined the outcomes of disability and disability progression, pain, spasticity, bladder function, tremor/ataxia, quality of life and adverse effects.
Efficacy of artisanal preparations of cannabidiol for the treatment of epilepsy: Practical experiences in a tertiary medical center
Medically refractory epilepsy continues to be a challenge worldwide, and despite an increasing number of medical therapies, approximately 1 in 3 patients continues to have seizures. Cannabidiol (CBD), one of many constituents of the Cannabis sativa or marijuana plant, has received renewed interest in the treatment of epilepsy. The most common reported side effect of CBD was sedation in less than 4% of patients, all of whom were also taking clobazam. Increased alertness and improved verbal interactions were reported in 14% of patients in the CBD group and 8% of patients in the CBD and clobazam group. Benefits were more marked in the CBD alone group, in contrast to the CBD and clobazam group.
Medicinal cannabis use is topical in the media in Ireland. A recent Health Products Regulatory Authority review, however, has recommended against its use for patients with chronic pain. This is despite evidence for its effectiveness in this patient’s cohort and the inadequate pain management of these patients. The study highlights the attitudes of chronic pain patients in Ireland towards medicinal cannabis. It shows their desire to have medical cannabis legalised for chronic pain and that they view it as a reasonable pain management option.
There is a substantial growth in the use of medical cannabis in recent years and with the aging of the population, medical cannabis is increasingly used by the elderly. Our study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in the elderly population. Cannabis use may decrease the use of other prescription medicines, including opioids. Gathering more evidence-based data, including data from double-blind randomized-controlled trials, in this special population is imperative.
Medical cannabis has entered mainstream medicine and is here to stay. Propelled by public advocacy, the media and mostly anecdote rather than sound scientific study, patients worldwide are exploring marijuana use for a vast array of medical conditions including management of chronic pain. Contrary to the usual path of drug approval, medical cannabis has bypassed traditional evidence-based study and has been legalized as a therapeutic product by legislative bodies in various countries. While there is a wealth of basic science and preclinical studies demonstrating effects of cannabinoids in neurobiological systems, especially those pertaining to pain and inflammation, clinical study remains limited.