Canadian Pharmacists Association calls for $10 million for cannabis education

The budget proposal would include warning the public of the potential harms of cannabis use as well as possible drug interactions

The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) released their pre-Budget 2017 submission last Friday, which includes a request for $10 million to support  cannabis education.

Within the larger budget suggestions for the Federal Government, the CPhA calls on them to “provide funding of $10 million to support a health promotion and awareness campaign to educate the public about the potential harms of marijuana use, including the possibility of interaction with prescription drugs, and responsible consumption through regulated suppliers.”

The document, available online, makes three recommendations for the 2017 federal budget to “improve the health of all Canadians, while ensuring the best value for health care dollars, including”:

1)Investing in optimal drug therapy for Canadians and enhancing drug access for patients

2) Educating Canadians about the health impacts of marijuana use, in particular as it relates to the medical use of marijuana and the risk of potential drug interactions

3)Improving healthcare for indigenous peoples through enhanced drug access and pharmacist services.

The section on cannabis refers to the lessons coming from Colorado and Washington pointing to a need for more targeted public education of the possible harms of cannabis use, and refers to concerns around cannabis negatively interacting with various prescription and over the counter medications:

"The federal government has committed to introducing legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana next year. As drug experts, pharmacists urge the government to ensure Canadians are well-informed, and understand the risks associated with using marijuana, including risk of addiction. It is well-known that smoking can harm the lungs; however, Canadian youth in particular may be less aware of increased risk of psychosis and schizophrenia, or long-term negative effects on cognitive and intellectual development. There is also evidence that youth are more likely to use products in concentrated form with higher levels of THC, and to use marijuana in combination with other substances.

"Lessons learned from stakeholders in Washington State and Colorado have identified the importance of investing proactively in a public health approach that builds capacity in prevention, education and treatment before implementation to minimize negative health and social impacts associated with using marijuana.

"As drug experts, pharmacists urge the federal government to ensure that any campaign also educates the public about the potential for harmful interactions between marijuana and prescription drugs. Clinical evidence suggests that marijuana may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. It may also affect blood sugar levels, which could require medication adjustments for diabetes medication.

"Marijuana may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs, including benzodiazepines, narcotics, some antidepressants, and alcohol."

Although in the past the CPhA ruled against allowing pharmacists to carry medical cannabis in 2013, the national agency stated earlier this year that they feel pharmacists are the ‘best equipped’ to handle medical cannabis.

Israel's medical cannabis program includes pharmacy distribution, and Uruguay is currently in the process of licensing pharmacies for retail sales of marijuana, although they are now looking at alternatives to pharmacies, as well.

Related: Pharmacists say they are best equipped to dispense cannabis

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