Press Release: Task Force Report Statement (Dec 2016)

Medical cannabis patient groups pleased federal government Task Force recognizes distinct needs of patients

Task Force report agrees that patients need well-researched, regulated and affordable access to medical cannabis

OTTAWA, Ontario – December 13, 2016 – Three leading patient advocacy groups commend the federal government’s Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation for their recommendations related to patient access to cannabis for medical purposes announced today.

The groups are very pleased that the Task Force, chaired by the Hon. A. Anne McLellan, has considered their main concerns about the future of medical cannabis in an environment of legalized recreational use.
The groups’ key recommendations were that the government ensure that patients are able to safely and reliably access affordable medical cannabis in all its forms and potencies through various distribution channels. The groups also called on the government to expand funding for and incentivize medical cannabis research.

The Task Force heard many of the concerns voiced by patients and recognized their distinct needs when accessing cannabis for medical purposes. Patients’ voices were reflected in the Task Force’s recommendation that the current separate system of medical access to cannabis be maintained while the legal system for non-medical cannabis unfolds.

The Task Force highlighted the need for additional research to address patients’ barriers to access, support medical professionals and inform policy in this evolving area. We call on the government to immediately invest $25 million over five years to better understand the therapeutic effects of cannabis for symptom management associated with various medical conditions in the federal government’s 2017 budget. The federal government can begin to show leadership immediately through specific research investments, independent of the implementation of a legalization framework.

As with other medicines, patients must be able to access an affordable supply of medical cannabis. We are disappointed that the Task Force did not recommend that the federal government zero-rate medical cannabis as is done for other treatments for tax purposes. We urge the government to follow the Task Force’s guidance by actively monitoring affordability issues for patients and taking action as needed.

“We are very pleased with the recommendations of the Task Force regarding medical cannabis and urge the government to implement these recommendations as it drafts its legislation,” said Janet Yale, President and CEO of The Arthritis Society. “Many Canadians with arthritis rely on medical cannabis and it is crucial that we enhance our research investment in cannabis to help inform patient treatment and care.”

“The Task Force has listened to the concerns of patients that their needs for medical cannabis cannot simply be met by accessing their medicine in the same fashion as for recreational use,” said Jonathan Zaid, Founder and Executive Director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana. “There continues to be pressing concerns for patients related to the current medical cannabis system, including critical concerns about affordability and retail access options. The government must continue to listen to patients’ voices as it develops legislation.”

“It is very important for Canadian patients to access cannabis for medical purposes through a process that meets their distinct needs and use requirements, which are different than those of non-medical users,” said Gary Lacasse, Executive Director, Canadian AIDS Society. “We are encouraged that the Task Force recommendations recognized patients’ experiences and recommended a variety of distribution options to access their cannabis treatment.”

Recommendations presented in August

The groups presented their recommendations on accessibility, affordability and support for research to the Task Force in August in their joint submission.

The three groups also hosted a roundtable session with a diverse group of patients and the Task Force in October at which patients gave first-hand accounts of their experiences, challenges and positive results from using medical cannabis.

At that session, patients spoke about the necessity of reliable access to different types of cannabis products in different, well-regulated doses depending on their specific need or health status, such as having ingestible forms when they are not able or willing to inhale cannabis smoke. They also described the affordability issues they faced due to lack of insurance coverage for medical cannabis and the burden of having to pay sales taxes, unlike prescription drugs. Medical cannabis costs can reach up to $500 a month for some patients and are a burden for many, even at much lower amounts.

The need for more research and more reliable information for both doctors and patients was also noted. Many patients have had difficulty finding a physician willing and able to prescribe them cannabis and lack information about forms and dosages. This means many patients have self-medicated with little or no guidance from their healthcare team to find the level and type of cannabis that gives them the most benefit, underscoring the need for much greater formal research.

About The Arthritis Society
The Arthritis Society has been setting lives in motion for over 65 years. Dedicated to a vision of living well while creating a future without arthritis, The Society is Canada’s principal health charity providing education, programs and support to the over 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis. Since its founding in 1948, The Society has been the largest non‐government funder of arthritis research in Canada, investing over $190 million in projects that have led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with arthritis. The Arthritis Society is accredited under Imagine Canada’s Standards Program. For more information and to make a donation, visit www.arthritis.ca.

About Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana
Founded in 2014, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) is a federal non-profit, patient-run organization dedicated to protecting and improving the rights of medical cannabis patients. CFAMM’s goal is to enable patients to obtain fair and safe access to medical cannabis with a special focus on affordability, including private and public insurance coverage. For more information, visit www.cfamm.ca.

About the Canadian AIDS Society
Incorporated since 1986, the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS) is a national coalition of community-based AIDS organizations across Canada. CAS is dedicated to strengthening the response to HIV/AIDS across all sectors of society, and to enriching the lives of people and communities living with HIV/AIDS. For more information, please visit www.cdnaids.ca.

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