CFAMM’s Jonathan Zaid advocates on behalf of cannabis patients before the House of Commons health committee

Sep 15, 2017 | Nest News, Peace News

Medicinal cannabis advocates appeared before the House of Commons health committee in Ottawa today to speak on behalf of patients as part of the government’s ongoing deliberations on Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act.

Jonathan Zaid, the founder and executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, is one of the few Canadians who has been successful convincing his private insurance policy to cover his cannabis prescription. According to Jacqueline Bogden, the assistant deputy minister at Health Canada who also appeared on the panel, there are approximately 200,000 patients registered with licensed producers in Canada. Another 10,000 are registered to grow at home.

Joined by law student and fellow patient Daphnée Elisma, Zaid appeared in partnership with the Arthritis Society to highlight issues affecting patients under the ACMPR, and how discussions surrounding Bill C-45 could help. Here are their key points:

Affordability

Only a handful of Canadians have their cannabis prescription covered by private insurance. CFAMM wants more coverage for Canadians, but the process of making this happen on a larger scale isn’t simple: while pharmaceutical drugs are eligible for a Drug Identification Number (DIN), which is used by insurance companies to log and recognize medicine, the number of varieties (indica/sativa/hybrid, cannabinoid and terpene profiles) and forms of the cannabis plant (oils, flower) make it difficult to acquire that designation. Health committee members proposed the possibility of creating another non-DIN process for cannabis products or designating a DIN for all cannabis products so that patients can begin the process of being reimbursed. 

Similarly, prescription drugs aren’t subject to sales tax and so neither should medicinal cannabis, argued Zaid. As each level of government across the country eyes the potential tax revenue of recreational cannabis, it should not be charged to patients purchasing cannabis for medical purposes.

Invest in medicinal cannabis research and education

One of the barriers to access for patients is the unwillingness of the health community to prescribe cannabis because of a lack of pre-clinical and clinical studies testing the efficacy and potential consequences to using medicinal cannabis. Zaid says the government should play an active role in funding these studies and communicating them to healthcare providers. Similarly, patients should be able to access evidence-based information about medical cannabis.

Distribution in pharmacies

Ontario is the first province so far to propose its distribution model of recreational cannabis, which will be through e-commerce and government-run retail outlets managed by the LCBO. Zaid would like to see the ACMPR amended so that pharmacies have distribution rights of medicinal cannabis to ensure it is kept separate from the recreational model.

Watch the full proceedings here. Zaid begins around the 10:57 mark. 

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