Cannabis legalization in Canada has improved access to medical cannabis

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A recent report prepared for Health Canada shows that the legalization of cannabis in Canada in 2018 has improved access, information sharing and reduced stigma associated with cannabis for medical purposes.

The report is based on two surveys, one of 1,205 Canadians aged 16 and older who have used cannabis for medical purposes since its legalization on October 17, 2018. The second survey was conducted among a sample of 823 physicians and nurse practitioners who have had experiences with or inquired about people accessing cannabis for medical purposes.

Recreational legalization has facilitated access to medical use

Among respondents who have used cannabis for medical purposes (“patients”), just over half (53%) said they had done so before legalization. Almost half (46%) only started using cannabis for medical purposes after the full legalization of cannabis.

Of those who only started using cannabis for medical purposes after legalization in 2018, more than half (58%) said they were more comfortable doing so because legalization has made cannabis more readily available. Half (49%) also said they made the decision to use cannabis for medical purposes because they felt more information about medical cannabis was available after legalization and there was less stigma. a postman.

Most (71%) of those who said they had used cannabis for medical purposes said they had also used cannabis for non-medical purposes in the past three years since legalization.

Most of these patients (66%) also reported having discussed their medical cannabis use with a physician and/or nurse practitioner. Among those who did not discuss these issues with a healthcare professional (HCP), fear of stigma was the most common reason.

The most common reasons for refusing to prescribe medical cannabis are the healthcare professional’s refusal to authorize the use of cannabis for patients (38%), lack of evidence to support cannabis as a treatment option (31%) or the fact that the healthcare professional is not familiar enough with the use of cannabis for medical purposes (29%).

Types of Cannabis Products Recommended

Cannabis oils, extracts and capsules are the products most often recommended by a medical professional (68%), followed by edibles (26%) and dried flower (23%).

Almost a third of respondents said they had been recommended products with high CBD and low THC content, while 24% said they had been recommended equal amounts of THC and CBD. Finally, 19% said they were recommended only CBD and 17% both high-THC and low-CBD products.

Despite this, 44% of patients reported smoking their cannabis, while 34% said they preferred edibles, and almost a third (31%) preferred to ingest cannabis extracts or oils. Most patients said they preferred cannabis products that contain both THC and CBD, but responses were varied.

27% said they preferred higher levels of THC with lower levels of CBD, while 30% said they preferred higher levels of CBD with lower levels of THC. 28% said they preferred equal levels of THC and CBD. Only 13% said they would prefer a product containing only THC.

Frequency of consumption

More than a third (39%) of people who use cannabis for medical purposes said they do so almost every day, while 21% said they do so several times a week. Only 14% said they used cannabis for medical purposes once a week, and only 10% said they did so several times a month.

60% of patients said they thought legalization had a positive impact on access to cannabis for medical purposes. Among them, about half said they thought full legalization had increased the quality and quantity of products, and nearly half said they felt less stigma for their cannabis use.

Health Professional Survey

A second survey focused on the opinion of health professionals. 49% of them said that the use of cannabis had therapeutic value. 45% said there was therapeutic value at least once in a while.

Of the healthcare professionals who said cannabis use had therapeutic value at least occasionally, three-quarters cited clinical examples that suggested cannabis may have therapeutic value. More than half (59%) said cannabis was a valuable tool in cases where other treatment options were not tolerable or effective.

Most (89%) of healthcare professionals who believe cannabis has therapeutic value at least occasionally think CBD is the most therapeutic part of the plant, while 44% say THC, 13 % than other cannabinoids and 9% than terpenes have therapeutic value.

Most healthcare professionals (90%) said CBD had therapeutic value, while 85% said THC posed risks.

Of those who recommend a maximum daily dose of THC, the majority recommend no more than 10 mg. The maximum amounts of CBD recommended were more varied. About a third (29%) of healthcare professionals said they usually recommend up to 2.5 mg per day.

The largest proportion (29%) said they generally recommend up to 2.5 mg of THC per day. Another 22% recommended between 2.6 and 5 mg of THC, while 15% usually recommend between 10.1 and 15 mg. Only 1% of healthcare professionals usually recommend more than 25 mg.

Among healthcare professionals who do not recommend cannabis for medical purposes, most (58%) cited a perceived lack of evidence on the effectiveness of cannabis or a lack of information on the appropriate dosage (55 %) to explain why.

Almost half (48%) said they felt they didn’t know enough about using medical cannabis or were concerned about negative side effects (47%). 64% of healthcare professionals said they had received more inquiries about the use of cannabis for medical purposes since legalization.

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