Windsor doctors get crash course in medical marijuana
Doctors nervous about prescribing medical marijuana got some answers Thursday night at an information session for physicians.
It was hosted by Canadian Cannabis Clinics, the company operating a cannabis clinic in Windsor.
Tim O'Callaghan, one of the physicians who attended, says marijuana has not been subjected to the same rigorous approval process as other new drugs.
"By the time it gets to us, in terms of being able to prescribe it, we've got very solid evidence around what the indications are for that medicine and what the right patient is to use it on," he said of drugs.
O'Callahan also says trying to figure out if a patient is faking an illness to get a marijuana prescription makes some doctors skeptical.
O'Callahan, a family doctor in Amherstburg and the president of the Essex
County Medical Society, has prescribed pot once, but it's not something he does regularly.
Although, he says physicians are happy to have a new resource in the community.
Medical marijuana has been legal since 2001, but in 2014, the process changed on how to obtain it. Prior to 2014, patients needed a licence from Health Canada, but they now just need a prescription from a doctor.
Ronan Levy, the general counsel and one of the directors of Canadian Cannabis Clinics, claims most doctors aren't comfortable in writing prescriptions for medical marijuana and don't know a lot about it.
His clinic specializes in determining if a patient is suitable to take medical marijuana.
For patients that end up being prescribed marijuana, the clinic connects them with a cannabis counsellor who educates them on the drug's use and helps put them in touch with a licensed producer.
Last night, Canadian Cannabis Clinics told doctors in attendance about marijuana's medical applications and the current regulatory environment with respect to cannabis and how doctors can develop an effective strategy for safe clinical prescription.
'Pain is considerably less'
Beth Harris is prescribed medical marijuana. She started working at Aphria, a licensed marijuana producer in Leamington, after she began using the company's marijuana to treat pain.
Harris was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. Chemotherapy and other cancer drugs left her with no appetite, insomnia and severe pain.
That's when she looked into an alternative to help with the constant pain.
"Not using medical marijuana, I would give it aobut an eight on a scale of 1-10," she said of her pain. "After I've used the marijuana, even though it doesn't take the pain completely away, my pain is considerably less."
Now, Harris uses her experience with marijuana to help patients find the right type of strand for their illnesses. She says she deals with patients of all ages, some who have never used marijuana.
"I really try to encourage one, when they ingest it to use a vapouraizer and not smoke it as a joint. A lot of the older people, I think, feel more comfortable with making a tea," she said.
Harris says she understand why doctors are skeptical to write prescriptions.
"It scares everybody, and physicians are scientific-based, research, fact physicians, so when you don't have that scientific evidence to back it up, physicians are definitely scared. I understand that," she said.
Harris says what worries her is those who can't get prescriptions may turn to getting the drug on the street.