A coalition of academics has signed an open letter directed to the Canadian government, urging it to prioritize cannabis research.
Scientists from all throughout Canada have come together to urge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other political figures to prioritize cannabis research. More than 1,800 of the country’s academic and public health researchers have already signed the open letter, which requests that the government make to easier to study the potential medical benefits of cannabis and how legalization might affect society.
“Under widespread global prohibition, cannabis research has been limited by the criminalization and stigmatization of cannabis use and users, leading to substantial gaps in knowledge around the harms and benefits of both medical and non-medical cannabis,” reads the letter sent to federal decision-makers.
“For example, although cannabis’ role as a pain reliever is increasingly well known, urgent questions remain about what effect increasing access to medical cannabis might play in the response to the ongoing opioid overdose crisis. Now is the time to ensure biomedical, epidemiological, and social sciences cannabis research is prioritized; supported with adequate funding; and facilitated through reduced administrative barriers.”
Government officials have announced that recreational marijuana will be legalized in Canada for adults over the age of 18 by July 1, 2018. The change in policy will mean that there will be open legal marijuana access to more than 100 million people in Canada and the United States, according to Dr. M-J Milloy, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Medicine.
“As scientists, we need to closely monitor the creation of the promised public health framework for legal cannabis and evaluate how it mitigates the harms and maximizes the possible benefits of cannabis,” Milloy said.
In the letter, the researchers suggest a five-step action plan to improve Canada’s scientific review and “help rebuild public trust in robust, open, and fair decision-making.” The plan includes seeking and acting on the best available evidence, making all evidence and assessments publicly available, assessing cumulative environmental effects, requiring public discourse to prevent conflicts-of-interest, and developing explicit decision-making criteria and offering transparent rationales.
Noted signers of the letter include Julio Montaner, a renowned investigator into HIV and AIDS, and Dr. Mark Ware, assistant professor of McGill University and investigator of cannabis’ effects on chronic pain. Ware served as vice-chair on a federally appointed task force for a commissioned report on the best ways to create and implement marijuana legalization.
“There is tremendous expertise and interest across the country that is pointed to engage and inform this important policy implementation,” Ware said in a statement.
In the open letter, the researchers explain that cannabis research has been limited by the long-standing criminalization of the substance.
“As a result, substantial knowledge gaps remain related to the potential consequences of legalized cannabis use,” the letter reads.
The open letter is available to read here.
Uruguay is the only other country to have legalized the recreational sale and use of marijuana, however sales have been slow to roll out.
You can learn about the research already done on cannabis and it’s effects by visiting our education page. Keep up with the growing legal cannabis industry through our news feed.