Medical cannabis patients still face too many practical barriers to access in countries where the drug is legal, including Canada, an international panel of advocates and experts at the Business of Cannabis Medical Cannabis conference in Toronto said Wednesday.
Long considered an international leader on medical cannabis, Canada has had a legal framework since 2001.
But with recreational legalization, we started to see two systems, said Gerald Major, president of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, a medical cannabis patient and an arthritis survivor.
“We started to get rules and regulations placed on things that had no medical patient exemptions whatsoever. So what they’ve done is essentially forgotten about patients,” said Major.
The biggest example, he said, relates to driving. “Driving on cannabis was never an issue,” he said. Now, police are instituting more awareness and ride checks.
“Eventually I’m going to be pulled over for impairment, even though I’m not impaired. Truth be told I’d be more impaired by arthritis than the medication I’ve used to treat it,” said Major.
Patients also face high costs made worse by high taxes, Major said, which differ from province to province.
Especially for patients on a fixed income, cannabis can be unaffordable without private insurance, a problem made worse by the cannabis supply deficit.
“We are already underdosing because we can’t afford the medication. We are currently massively underdosing on CBD,” said Major. And a big part of that relates to affordability, the number one problem, he said.
“So we have to do a better job at policy,” said Major. This would include rethinking laws that enforce where you can use cannabis, for example, which might force medical cannabis users from housing being designated as smoke-free.
And, despite becoming available in Germany with a prescription, patients in Germany still struggle to access cannabis, said Martin Becker, deputy managing director at the Berlin office of global affairs consultancy Interel, who joined the panel remotely from Germany.