Medicinal cannabis is still an area of misinformation and hot debate
While there has been a general shift towards curiosity about cannabis since Trudeau’s pot-promising government took office, the switch has marked a particularly crucial need for education.
Dionne Jennings, a herbalist with the Edmonton Herb Club says the majority of people that come to her asking about medicinal cannabis have not tried any other herbal alternative before settling on cannabis. She attributes this to the rampant misinformation online.
To combat this, she created an event based in cannabis education. Master and clinical herbalist Jeananne Laing will take the lead for the event to lecture on cannabis as medicine.
“It’s interesting so many people out there are using it but they don’t really know what they’re doing,” Laing says. “There’s a lot of need for education around the use of the plant for medicinal purposes.”
The event involves a basic intro session as well as a more advanced class that builds on the first.
With much greater interest than she had expected, Jennings moved the event to a larger space and still sold out the advanced Saturday class.
With many years of training under her belt, and most recently educating practicing doctors at an education clinic in Calgary, Laing is a crusader for accurate information rooted in facts.
She agrees that we’re facing a problem right now with the pending legalization that exposes a lack of education about cannabis in general.
One of the reasons there is so little knowledge about it is that currently the only way to access legal cannabis is through a prescription from a medical doctor.
In addition, research on cannabis has also been limited until it’s made legal and accessible, which unfortunately coincides with the floodgates opening and legalization being rolled out.
But it’s more than just access. Doctors are educating themselves about the medicinal uses of cannabis, the various strains, and methods of intake at the same time that we are.
“There are no consolidated sources for learning,” Laing says.
This means there’s still serious catch up to be done.
It doesn’t help that there are so many aspects to the use of cannabis. Laing names two categories, one being adult use (recreational use), the other being medicinal use.
Laing and other herbalists deal only with medicinal use. But, within medicinal use there’s daily use for problems like insomnia and anxiety, and there’s more specific use meant for treatment of diseases and cancers. There’s also the problem of different strains with different ratios of CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, psychoactive ingredient).
But where should the information be coming from?
“I think it’s really confusing to get good quality information out there that’s unbiased and doesn’t have a leaning towards the recreational or adult use versus the actual medicinal use,” Laing says.
Perhaps the role herbalists can play is a collaborative one with medical doctors.
“Medical doctors are the best people to evaluate if cannabis medicine would be a good fit,” Laing says. “Based on their current health, health history and whatever pharmaceutical drug the person [may be] on.”
But, she says, most doctors do not have the time or expertise to advise on different strains and what dosages would work best.
“Herbalists are good candidates because we teach about other plant medicines. But a lot of people want that scientific end of it,” Laing says. “So there’s a lot of research that needs to be done on how the medicinal parts [of cannabis] fit into our bodies within the endocannabinoid system.”
The endocannabinoid system was only discovered in the ‘90s and still has many unknown functions. The majority of papers published on the subject only come from the last 15 to 20 years. What we do know is the system is a series of receptors connected to our central and peripheral nervous systems as well as our immune system and actually uses naturally occurring endocannabinoids in our body to regain and maintain homeostasis.
Though slightly different form our naturally occurring endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our endocannabinoid system.
However, when asked if there’s a book she’d recommend on the subject, Laing says there is still no book on medicinal cannabis she is completely comfortable backing.
Jennings adds that there’s so much curiosity surrounding cannabis that myths end up becoming all too common. One of the common errors she sees is creating cannabis to be “an inflated cure for everything.”
This is why there is so much need for substantial information. One of the more serious concerns many herbalists have is the use of cannabis in those underage. Of the studies that have been done, the plant has been linked to cannabis-induced mental health issues ranging from short-term paranoia to long-term mental illness, even after there is no trace of cannabis in the person’s system.
If there’s anything we can take from all this, it’s that accurate information is scarce and the clock is ticking on the pending legalization process.
Prime Minister Trudeau just announced the proposed federal tax for upcoming cannabis sales at one dollar per gram or 10 percent of total sale price, whichever is higher. However, this has sparked concern in Alberta with our lack of a provincial tax, potentially making cannabis bought in Alberta the cheapest in the country.
Finance Minister Joe Ceci has pointed out his problem with this, stating that cannabis needs to be relatively the same price country-wide. Another reason the province has a problem with the proposed tax rate is the lack of help they are receiving from the federal government.
While much is still up in the air, the proposed Cannabis Act is slated to come into action no later than July 2018 according to the government of Canada website.
In the meantime, while shops and stocks increase by the day, education remains a problem.
Fri., Nov. 17 (7 pm)
Cannabis as Medicine
Roots on Whyte