Saskatchewan: Medical Marijuana Prescriptions being Stymied, Advocates Say


February 18, 2010 – Biased policies against medical marijuana by Saskatchewan’s governing body of medical practitioners are deterring doctors from granting prescriptions, say medicinal pot proponents.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan’s policy doesn’t prohibit doctors from prescribing marijuana, but the policy states the college is uncertain of the risks and benefits because evidence of marijuana’s advantages is lacking.

“(The college) appears to be deterring doctors, or at least giving them an excuse to deny prescriptions,” said Daniel Johnson, Saskatchewan director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

The college fails to recognize a growing body of medical studies that suggest marijuana is an effective alternative to chemical-based drugs as treatment for a wide-spectrum of ailments, from HIV-AIDS and multiple sclerosis to anxiety and eating disorders, said Johnson.

“Some of the studies are fairly conclusive,” said Johnson. “Doctors should be looking at the evidence that’s there and comment on it directly.”

Johnson’s organization has been approached by “a lot of people” who’ve tried to get a prescription, but found only resistance in the medical community, says a letter from NORML to the college.

At www.norml.org, there are hundreds of links to studies — some medical, most anecdotal — on marijuana’s medicinal benefits, as well as a list of support from medical and mental health organizations, said Johnson.

Patients apply to the federal government for the right to secure a prescription — with the approval of a doctor — for medical marijuana.

The college does not interfere with a doctor’s decision to prescribe marijuana or apply pressure to discourage prescriptions, said Brian Salte, the college’s associate registrar and legal counsel.

The policy statement on a lack of evidence on the advantages of marijuana is “not a matter of extra scrutiny,” he said. “It’s a suggestion from our college pertaining to current information on real evidence, not anecdotal evidence.

“Marijuana is a drug that hasn’t been properly studied. . . . When you’re talking about palliative care patients who are dying anyway, the risks and benefits are clearly on the side of little or no risk. For other people, it’s very unclear what the risks and benefits are.”

Last updated in 2005, the medical marijuana policy is being studied this year as part of a college-wide policy review.

The review will consider the most recent scientific knowledge regarding marijuana risks and benefits, said Salte.

“Whenever you review a policy, you abolish it, change it or affirm it,” he said.

Tim Selenski, owner of Head to Head Novelties in Regina, hosts workshops for people wanting to secure medical marijuana prescriptions but who need help navigating through bureaucratic barriers.

“All I want is people to have safe access to pot,” said Selenski. “The black market is dangerous. We do not want to see grow-ops all over town.”

When people with legitimate ailments sought Selenski for advice on how to get a prescription, he originally sent them to “hip doctors,” but he said the doctors were eventually placed under extra scrutiny.

He now lets people find their own doctors. By Jeremy Warren. Source.


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