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Pot activist smokes out doctors
Published: June 28, 2011 10:29 p.m.
Last modified: June 28, 2011 10:33 p.m.
Rene Johnston/torstar news service
Toronto Hash Mob member and organizer Matt Mernagh
during a gathering of Toronto pot smokers at
Yonge-Dundas Square last April.
Toronto activist Matt Mernagh is calling the medical marijuana program a “disaster.”
“In my trial, the judge concluded that less than one per cent of doctors are signing the application,” said Mernagh, who had been involved in a three-year legal battle against charges of possessing and growing cannabis to self-medicate. “Most of them don’t even know (the program) exists.”
To qualify for a licence, patients must obtain a signed declaration from a doctor and/or specialist, depending on the severity of illness.Charges dropped
Justice Donald Taliano’s ruling on Matt Mernagh’s case: “(Physicians of Canada) have massively boycotted the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) and their overwhelming refusal to participate in the medicinal marijuana program completely undermines the effectiveness of the program.”
Taliano dropped charges against Mernagh and gave the government three months to render the program constitutional.
While Mernagh says doctors are not necessarily opposed to the program, from his experience, most of them were not aware it existed until he brought it up.
“They’re just not interested, they know nothing about the medical marijuana program,” he said.
“Health Canada doesn’t spend money advertising it, yet all pharmaceutical companies send reps to doctors explaining new medications.”
In regards to educating physicians on medical marijuana and promoting awareness of the program, Health Canada spokesperson Stephane Shank said, “The practice of medicine is not something that falls under Health Canada’s jurisdiction. There are governing bodies such as the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada that continue to educate their physicians.”
According to Dr. Maura Ricketts, director of CMA’s public health office, physicians are usually educated about new medication through pharmaceutical companies. But when it comes to medical marijuana, physicians are just not armed with the necessary information to prescribe it to patients.
“We think somebody has to pull that information together,” she said. “The federal government has put physicians into a very awkward position of making us the gatekeeper for smoked marijuana, which is a drug that we actually don’t have all the correct information to know how to use safely.”