Windsor doctor worries for medical cannabis once recreational use legalized

A Windsor, Ont. doctor with a specialty in prescribing medical cannabis is concerned about how his patients will be able to get the drug once it's legalized for recreational use.

Canadian Medical Association wants medical use 'phased out' but local doctor says that's not the way

Dr. Christopher Blue, who practices in Windsor, said doctors need to evolve with medicine and be in the know of what their patients are using. (Jason Viau/CBC News)

A Windsor, Ont. doctor with a specialty in prescribing medical cannabis is concerned about how his patients will be able to get the drug once it's legalized for recreational use. 

In August, Dr Jeff Blackmer, vice-president of medical professionalism for the Canadian Medical Association said the medical cannabis system should be phased out.

"The medical profession, as a whole, has really struggled with the whole concept of medical cannabis. There's definitely some physicians who feel comfortable in that area but most don't," Blackmer said. 

"And [that is] primarily because of the lack of evidence, the lack of scientific studies showing it actually works, the lack of knowledge around dosing and interactions with other medications — all these types of things. Our recommendation was that once it is legalized, that there really is no reason for a separate medical system."

But Dr. Christopher Blue, who practices in Windsor, couldn't disagree more. He's is one of the few doctors in the region who know how to prescribe marijuana for medical conditions.

"We always want to know what our patients are taking, what are they doing, not only what we're prescribing, but what are they taking a supplements as well," said Blue. "By encouraging them to separate themselves more from their family physician or their prescribing physician and going elsewhere to seek alternative treatments — it's a huge disservice to our patients."

Hear more from Dr. Blue on CBC's Windsor Morning:

Once marijuana becomes legal and is sold at retail stores, a Windsor doctor is worried about what happens to the medical use of cannabis. Should doctors even still prescribe it, if you can just go into a store and buy it on your own? Dr Christopher Blue explains why he's concerned. 9:18

As medicine evolves, doctors need to keep up with it, argues Blue, who acknowledges that medical cannabis is a particularly difficult issue to navigate because no other medication also serves recreational purposes. 

"This is the evolution of medicine whether we like it or not," he said. "We need to understand that it's going to be here and it's not going away."

Sandra McFadden said she would not be comfortable taking medical cannabis that was not prescribed by her doctor. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

One patient of Dr. Blue, Sandra McFadden, has been using medical cannabis for about two months to treat pain following a major spinal surgery and degenerative disc disease. She said she would not take measure into her own hands and buy marijuana to treat her pain if it wasn't prescribed by her doctor. 

"This is amazing for my lower back," she said. "Having the doctor prescribe it, I know what I'm getting. I feel a lot more comfortable doing that." 

Blue said patients will not get the same level of care if they look to purchase cannabis and treat their own medical conditions. 

"If I give medical advice, I am held liable for that advice and treatment," said Blue. "Encouraging patients to go to dispensaries for their medical cannabis rather than to go to their physicians raises huge concerns among a lot of physicians."

With files from CBC's Dave Dormer