Medical Cannabis and the Great Divide: Analysis of Senate Inquiry Submissions Reveals Polarized Views

An analysis of submissions to 2019 Senate Inquiry into Patient Access found a significant divide between government and health organizations on one side, with patients and the medical cannabis industry on the other.

Researchers analyzed 121 submissions from patients or family members (63), government agencies (five), non-governmental organizations (25), pharmaceutical and medical cannabis companies (16), and healthcare professionals. health, academics or research centers (12).

Submissions revealed that there is still work to be done to de-stigmatize medical cannabis among healthcare professionals

They found that submissions from government agencies and professional health organizations consistently supported maintaining the current regulatory framework and pathways and highlighted the need for further research into the efficacy of medical cannabis.

Typical responses included:

“There are very few well-designed clinical trials using medicinal cannabis, which provide limited evidence on its use to successfully treat different medical conditions, or on effective forms and dosages.” (Northern Territory Government)

“Developing a strong evidence base remains a critical enabler to ensuring the safe and effective use of medicinal cannabis in chronic pain and requires further research and investment.” (Bread Australia)

However, an overwhelming majority of patients, advocacy groups, and the medical cannabis industry have described the current regimen as “misfit for purpose.”

For instance:

“What patients report ‘anecdotally’ is their lived experience. I think it makes more sense, in the complex space of medical cannabis, to instead consider a “risk vs. benefit” approach and make healthcare decisions accordingly because, regardless of political and medical opinions, thousands of Australian patients use cannabis for medical and illegal purposes. ” (Individual Submission)

“No patient can find anything commendable in a program deliberately designed to present a daunting minefield of impossible obstacles to negotiate and, for the accepted few, resulting in an exorbitantly priced, limited-range product if diluted and watered down that it’s almost unnecessary.(Individual Submission)

write in Plos Onethe research team suggested that the differing views “appear to stem from differing views on what and how much evidence is needed for policy and practice, and how patients should access cannabis products medicine in a context of empirical uncertainty”.

However, they added: “Notwithstanding these differences, there were commonalities among some stakeholders regarding the various supply, regulatory, legislative, financial and distribution challenges that hampered timely access to herbal medicines. cannabis.”

They concluded that addressing the urban-rural divide in access to healthcare, decoupling recreational cannabis from medical cannabis, and reframing the views of society and healthcare professionals were “essential first steps.” to de-stigmatize and improve access”.

Norman D. Briggs