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Timely information and insights into the world of evidence-based medicine as it applies to IMEs and other health-related services across Canada. Your feeback and suggestions are welcome.

Part 1: Overview of Cannabis/Medical Marijuana


Background/Prevalence

Cannabis (substances derived from the cannabis plant, including marijuana, hashish, and hash oil) contains substances known as cannabinoids that can affect the brain and body. There are more than 100 known cannabinoids, the best known of which are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which can produce a “high”) and CBD (cannabidiol).

In 2015, 12.3% of Canadians (totaling 3.6 million people) had reported using marijuana in the past year, an increase from 11% in 2013. Males reported a 15% usage rate and females reported a 10% rate. Of these respondents, 24% reported that their use was medically related.1

Regulatory and Clinical Perspective

Until April 2014, Health Canada had provided specific licenses to individuals to grow and use medical marijuana for documented medical conditions. On August 11, 2016, Health Canada announced the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations(ACMPR).The ACMPR allows for reasonable access to cannabis for Canadians who have been authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes by their health care practitioner. Canadians are allowed to produce a limited amount of cannabis for their own medical purposes, or designate someone to produce it for them.2

Many regulatory bodies have produced position papers on the topic of medical marijuana. As an example, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) provides the following direction to medical practitioners:3While conclusive evidence regarding the safety and effectiveness of marijuana as a medical treatment is limited, many patients, physicians, and researchers have voiced support for the cautious and compassionate use of marijuana, particularly where other therapeutic options have been exhausted and failed to alleviate the patient’s symptoms.”

The CPSO outlines the requirement for medical practitioners to properly screen patients, considering risk factors such as prior mental illness, addiction history, general medical conditions or other medications and age to ensure that the benefit exceeds any potential harm for side effects and complications. 

Stakeholders should recognize the rapid and continuously evolving nature of this topic and ensure that they obtain accurate and updated information from the regulatory and industry bodies, in conjunction with expert medical/legal opinions for additional detail and guidance. The above is intended as a current sampling of some industry policies only and is not intended to guide decision making.

  1. [REF: Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs (CTADS): 2015 Summary https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/2015-summary.html ]
  2. [REF: HEALTH CANADA http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2016-230/index.html]
  3. [REF: CPSO. Marijuana for Medical Purposes. http://www.cpso.on.ca/policies-publications/policy/marijuana-for-medical-purposes