An increasing number of Canadian doctors are comfortable prescribing medical marijuana, or making referrals to doctors who will prescribe it. But even once patients get the green light from a physician, that doesn't mean they can always access the relief they need.
In Canadian hospitals, medical marijuana patients regularly face a lack of understanding about the drug, especially where vaping is concerned. Last month, CBC covered New Brunswicker Michel Arsenault's struggle with chronic pain, PTSD and depression. Although he's been prescribed medical marijuana since 1999, when hospitalized at the Dr. Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, Arsenault was prohibited from vaping.
Arsenault said while he's tried Nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid pill, and the cannabinoid spray Sativex, both failed to provide the same relief as the vaporizer. Regardless, he was told he'd either have to take his Volcano vaporizer outside, or switch to taking marijuana in pill form.
A Quebec hospital allows vaping in rooms
But in Quebec, doctors, dentists and pharmacists at Sherbrooke University Hospital Centre unanimously approved the use of medical marijuana in patients' rooms in 2014. That includes vaping, as long as the patient is deemed too sick to leave the room and go outside.
As experts from the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS argued in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, it appears that marijuana is held to a different standard than other prescription drugs in Canada, despite its well-documented effects as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.
Hospital no-smoking policies, which often prohibit e-cigs and vapes, continue to pose challenges for medical marijuana patients and provincial health. But some doctors are looking to change that.
"By law we are here to help to maintain and promote and heal patients," Dr. Serge Lepage, president of the Council of Physicians, Dentists and Pharmacists (CMDP) at the Sherbrooke Hospital told CBC. "So in the process, if at one point marijuana has to be used, we should be there for the patient."