Now that recreational marijuana’s legal, what does that mean for healthcare providers?
Earlier this week recreational marijuana use was legalized all across Canada. Whether or not you think this impacts you, we’ll soon see the implications it has in the medical community, physician practices, and public health overall.
So what does mean for medical marijuana?
For now, current regulations surrounding marijuana for medical purposes will remain unchanged, and the government has purposely kept the legislation around recreational and medical marijuana use separate.
While there’s been some discussion in the medical community on whether or not this should be case, the government’s reason for doing so include ensuring individuals who need marijuana for medical purposes are not limited by the restrictions that apply to recreational use under the Cannabis Act.
For example, differences include patients being able to have their insurer to reimburse for medical marijuana, and there being no age restriction on medical marijuana use.
In short, the new legislation for recreational marijuana doesn’t really change the role you as a physician play in relation to medical marijuana. It’s expected that patients will continue to ask you for the medical documents needed to access marijuana for medical purposes.
What are some of the implications it could have on me as a healthcare provider?
It’ll be difficult to predict the full impact the legalization of recreational marijuana will have until all the details are fleshed out in provincial and municipal by-laws.
One possible change could be an increase in police requests for blood samples from patients suspected of driving while under the influence, especially if you’re an emergency physician. Take the time to warn your patients not to drive or operate machinery after usage, as cannabis’ impairment on psychomotor performance is definitely an area of concern.
Another important thing to consider is the possible interactions marijuana may have with other medications that a patient is taking, or if usage could affect a patient’s existing medical condition. You might feel prompted to more routinely ask patients about their substance use to better assess their health risks and possible interactions.
Food for thought: Could this possibly help tackle the opioid crisis?
Canada’s opioid overdose epidemic is an ongoing crisis, and creative discussion in the public policy sphere has suggested whether cannabis legalization could be part of the solution.
For example, one possibility is that patients dealing with chronic pain may feel more inclined to use cannabis as treatment, as opposed to opioids. There’s even been recent studies suggesting cannabis’ potential to reduce opioid cravings in those who are addicted.
While there’s lots to discuss and consider and things continue to unfold in the coming months, one thing’s for sure – this is one of the biggest national public policy shifts that many of us will witness in our lifetime. We’ll all be keeping an eye on it’s clinical and public health impacts.