North American health professionals have some conflicting advice on medical cannabis.
In an editorial published in the Oct. 2015 issue of the "Journal of the Canadian Public Health Association," Thomas Kerr, Julio Montaner and Stephanie Lake of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, criticized the preference Canadian doctors give to other prescription drugs over medicinal cannabis.
They see the preference as political.
"When it comes to prescription marijuana, patients' needs should be considered above political considerations," said Dr. Montaner in a news release. "There could be great harm in ignoring the medical uses of marijuana."
Dr. Kerr elaborated on the politics of medical marijuana by taking aim at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government: noting the prime minister's claim that cannabis is "infinitely worse" than tobacco, Kerr argued that the reigning Conservatives are "making up the science on the fly."
Kerr argues medical marijuana could save lives not only because it is effective but also a safer form of pain treatment than opioid painkillers such as Oxycodone.
"This can't be taken too lightly because Canada, like the U.S., is in the midst of an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and related overdose deaths," Kerr wrote in the editorial.
Even when used properly, opioid medication can be deadly. The University of Manitoba claims that approximately 12 Canadians die each week due to accidental opioid overdose. The stats are even more grim across the border: every day, 44 Americans die of prescription painkiller overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kerr's prescription is to legalize cannabis, and regulate medicinal and recreational consumption based on the best current practices.
But he and his colleagues are meeting opposition from within the medical community. In June 2015, "The Journal of the American Medical Association" published analysis that found there is only moderate evidence to support the use of cannabis as a painkiller.
According to co-author Robert Wolff, these findings mean the drug should be treated as a prospective treatment, not part of a normal drug regiment for patients. That status means it's unlikely that cannabis will gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada.