A federal court in Canada ruled today that government officials cannot prohibit physician-authorized patients from growing their own supply of medical cannabis.
The decision strikes down regulations enacted in 2013 that sought to take away patients’ longstanding authority to grow personal use quantities of cannabis. The court opined that the regulations unduly infringed upon patients’ liberties and that they were “not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
The judge’s ruling provides Parliament with six months to create new rules governing the regulation and distribution of medical cannabis in a manner that no longer requires patients to obtain medicine solely from federally-licensed, private third party providers.
NORML Canada‘s John Conroy served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, while NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano served as an expert witness and filed an affidavit in the case.
Canadian officials first legalized the physician authorized use, possession, and home cultivation of medical marijuana in 2001. Those regulations were significantly amended in 2013 in a manner that sought to prohibit qualified patients from continuing to receive cannabis from Health Canada or from growing it themselves.
Last year, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to amend Canada’s marijuana laws in a manner that regulates the plant’s use and sale for all adults.
Text of the decision, Allard et al. v Canada, is online here.
The long-term, daily use of cannabis is associated with improved analgesia and reduced opioid use in patients with treatment-resistant chronic pain conditions, according to clinical trial data reported online ahead of print in The Clinical Journal of Pain.
Investigators with Hebrew University in Israel evaluated the use of cannabis on pain in a cohort of 176 patients, each of whom had been previously unresponsive to all conventional pain medications. Subjects inhaled THC-dominant cannabis daily (up to 20 grams per month) for a period of at least six months.
A majority of participants (66 percent) experienced improvement in their pain symptom scores after cannabis therapy, and most reported “robust” improvements in their quality of life. Subjects’ overall consumption of opioid drugs declined 44 percent by the end of the trial, and a significant percentage of participants discontinued opioid therapy altogether over the course of the study.
Authors concluded, “In summary, this long-term prospective cohort suggests that cannabis treatment in a mixed group of patients with treatment-resistant chronic pain may result in improved pain, sleep and quality of life outcomes, as well as reduced opioid use.”
The Israeli results are similar to those reported in a 2015 Canadian trial which concluded that chronic pain patients who use herbal cannabis daily for one-year experienced reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and did not possess an increased risk of serious side effects.
According to data published in 2014 in The Journal of the American Medical Association, US states with medical marijuana laws experience far fewer opiate-related deaths than do states that prohibit the plant. Investigators from the RAND Corporation and the University of California, Irvine reported similar findings in 2015, concluding, “States permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.” Clinical data published in 2011 in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics previously reported that the administration of vaporized cannabis “safely augments the analgesic effect of opioids.”
A review published earlier this year in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia assessing the clinical use of cannabinoids for pain in over 1,300 subjects concludes, “Overall, the recent literature supports the idea that currently available cannabinoids are modestly effective analgesics that provide a safe, reasonable therapeutic option for managing chronic non-cancer-related pain and possibly cancer-related pain.”
An abstract of the study, “The effect of medicinal cannabis on pain and quality of life outcomes in chronic pain: A prospective open-label study,” appears online here.
A report published last fall claiming that an estimated three in ten consumers of cannabis suffer from a ‘use disorder’ has been dismissed in a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
Investigators at the Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis assessed trends in marijuana use and the prevalence of marijuana use disorders during the years 2002 to 2013. Researchers determined that the self-reported use of cannabis by adults increased an estimated 19 percent, but that reports of cannabis-related problems actually declined during this same period.
“We’re certainly seeing some increases in marijuana use,” the lead researcher of the new study said. “But our survey didn’t notice any increase in marijuana-related problems. Certainly, some people are having problems so we should remain vigilant, but the sky is not falling.”
Separate evaluations of self-reported marijuana use by young people have determined that rates of cannabis use by high-school students is significantly lower today than it was 15 years ago.
Full text of the study, “Recent Trends in the Prevalence of Marijuana Use and Associated Disorders in the United States,” appears online in JAMA Psychiatry here.
Australian lawmakers are anticipated to approve landmark legislation in the coming months allowing for the production and use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
The legislation, which is backed by Australia’s Prime Minister, Health Minister, and leading political parties, amends national drug laws to permit for the licensed cultivation and distribution of medicinal cannabis.
The move by Parliament follows recent efforts by several Australian territories to provide patients participating in clinical trials with access to the plant.
“This government understands that there are some Australians suffering from severe conditions for which cannabis may have applications,” Health Minister Sussan Ley told Parliament this week. “[W]e want to enable access to the most effective medical treatments available.”
She added, “Allowing controlled cultivation locally will provide the critical missing piece for a sustainable legal supply of safe medicinal cannabis products for Australian patients in the future.”
To date, only Canada, Israel, and the Netherlands federally license private growers to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients. Colombia, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico are also expected to begin licensing medical marijuana manufacturing in the near future.
In 2013, Uruguay officials approved legislation authorizing the retail production and sale of cannabis to those age 18 and older. Consumers in that country are anticipated to be able to begin purchasing cannabis at state-licensed pharmacies by mid-2016.
NORML’s 2016 Congressional Lobby Day at the United States Capitol is scheduled for May 23rd and 24th. Hundreds of marijuana consumers, activists, patients and business owners are expected to attend a day-long training and informational conference on Monday and re-convene on The Hill Tuesday to personally lobby their elected members of the House of Representatives and Senate.
Whether you’re a longtime activist, young college student, medical marijuana patient or simply just a marijuana consumer and NORML supporter, consider taking the next step and travelling to Washington D.C. to directly lobby Congress in support of common sense marijuana law reform. You’ll meet like minded activists from across the country and you’ll get a glimpse into the Capitol Hill lawmaking process!
Scheduling and registration information will soon be posted to norml.org, and promoted as well across NORML’s network via listservs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Please save the dates and participate in this historic lobbying effort in our nation’s capital at this crucial time in the law reform effort as cannabis prohibition increasingly gives way to legalization!
For planning purposes you can look up hotel information. Our day-long training and informational conference on Monday will be held at 1957 E Street if you wish to look for something close to the planned activities. Last year, participants also benefited from booking with AirBnb.