Researchers at the BC Centre for Excellent in HIV/AIDS argued that Canadian doctors hold cannabis and prescription drugs to different standards, with negative consequences for patients.

The editorial, published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, encouraged physicians to treat conditions with medical cannabis, instead of addictive painkillers.

“When it comes to prescription marijuana, patients’ needs should be considered above political considerations,” said co-author Dr. Julio Montaner. “There could be great harm in ignoring the medical uses of marijuana.”

Canada currently has a serious problem with opioid addiction and overdose death, according to co-author, and director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS’s Urban Health Research Initiative, Dr. Thomas Kerr.

“If we can enhance access to medicinal cannabis for the right conditions, it may have the positive effect of reducing prescription opioid misuse and the associated overdose epidemic,” said Kerr.

Compared to prescription opioids, which are responsible for almost half of all overdoses, cannabis has not been linked with any increased risk of death in patients. Canada has the second-highest rate of opioid use in the world.

Kerr said there is strong evidence that cannabis is as effective as traditional prescription medication, and if it was prescribed more often it could reduce the number of overdose deaths.

Canada’s current system of medicinal cannabis use, requiring patients to access the drug from licensed producers through the mail, doesn’t make sense. said Kerr.

“We would never do that in the case of treating someone with diabetes,” he said.

Kerr said the federal government has been fabricating science to block the widespread use of cannabis as a treatment method.

“It’s unfortunate that the federal government has really failed to deliver an effective medical-cannabis program and it’s unfortunate that they’ve also misrepresented the science in this area,” said Kerr.

Canadian Medical Association president Cindy Forbes issued a statement in response to the article, stating physicians’ concerns that cannabis has been exempted from Health Canada regulations other pharmaceuticals face.

“The limited clinical evidence combined with very limited guidance for the therapeutic use of marijuana pose a challenge for physicians in providing the best care to patients,” Forbes said.