The Sunday Magazine

How medical is medical marijuana?

The government has authorized more than 50 thousand Canadians to use medical marijuana; that number is expected to grow ten-fold over the next decade. But professional medical organizations continue to advocate against medical marijuana, saying not enough is known about its effectiveness or potency to write an accurate prescription.
Marijuana skin creams are shown at a medical marijuana dispensary in Vancouver. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)

The number of Canadians authorized to use medical marijuana has been skyrocketing. In 2002 – a year after the government first permitted access through Health Canada regulations – 500 patients had registered. Today, there are more than 50,000.

This has happened despite the official position of the Canadian Medical Association that "there is insufficient scientific evidence available to support the use of marijuana for clinical purposes."

This is a reprise of our special report on medical marijuana, first broadcast in March, which includes testimonials from patients who are authorized to use the drug. We also speak with Kerry Jang, a city councillor in Vancouver, which has more medical marijuana stores than Tim Hortons coffee shops; and with Dr. Mark Ware. He is the Executive Director of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids and the Director of Clinical Research at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the McGill University Health Centre.

Recent updates to this story: Since his interview on TheSunday Edition in March, Dr. Ware launched the study he talked about with Michael and announced the world's first registry of users of medical cannabis. In June, Vancouver became the first city in Canada to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. 

The Supreme Court ruled in June to expand how the medicinal version of the drug can be sold and consumed. This week, Health Canada announced a change to the law that complies with this ruling. 


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