Dana Larsen: Canadian docs warned that cannabis could be as risky as opioids

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A new commentary published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal is full of anticannabis bias and false claims, ending with a dire warning that widespread cannabis use could create "a disaster similar to the opioid epidemic".

The article is supposed to be a call for more research into the medical effects of cannabis, which everyone can agree is a good idea. But it's also full of embarrassing nonsense and dangerous misinformation.

The authors complain that the public perceives cannabis as "natural and safe" but offer no evidence to the contrary. Yet a dried cannabis flower is clearly both of those things. What's more "natural" than a piece of plant? And every analysis of relative drug harms lists cannabis as one of the safest psychoactive substances there is.

The authors write that cannabis "bypassed the process of due diligence required for drug registration", while ignoring that cannabis has been used socially and medicinally for thousands of years. No other medicinal herbs have to go through a drug registration process to be used in their natural form, so why should cannabis be treated differently?

A history of racist and unjustified prohibition should not justify forcing a natural plant medicine to be treated differently than all other plants are treated.

The authors then cite a recent Netherlands study that found no reduction in "spontaneous pain" after cannabis use, but neglect to mention that the study did find "cannabis varieties containing THC caused a significant increase in pressure pain threshold". This kind of selective editing is just intellectually dishonest.

There's lots of other bad stuff in the article, like how the authors use a 2017 study into inaccurate labelling of mail-order CBD in the U.S. to justify a claim that Canadian cannabis labels have "questionable accuracy".

The authors even claim that patients who experience medical benefits from cannabis are really suffering from a "placebo effect", reinforced by the amount of money they've spent buying cannabis!

Most outrageously, the authors claim the idea that cannabis is safer than opioids is just a "perception" caused by "media promotion"—a very irresponsible and dangerous claim to make. In terms of overdose potential, addictiveness and harm to the liver, opioids are clearly more risky and potentially harmful than cannabis.

The authors conclude with a warning! More research into cannabis is needed, they say, to "avert a potential disaster similar to the opioid epidemic".

What serious medical professional would ever claim that cannabis use could lead to a massive overdose death crisis like we're seeing with opiates? What reputable medical journal would publish a bizarre claim like that? Why is the CMA giving this absurd nonsense prominent space in its journal?

With this kind of anticannabis propaganda being served up as reasonable commentary by the Canadian Medical Association, no wonder doctors remain so biased and bigoted against cannabis as a plant and a medicine!

Dana Larsen is an author, advocate, and activist for cannabis and drug policy reform.

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