Three patient advocacy groups presented a brief on cannabis legalization to the federal task force group currently overseeing the government’s promise to legalize recreational cannabis.

The groups, The Arthritis Society, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana and the Canadian AIDS Society, stressed to the task force that current medical patients have many needs unmet under the system in place and made recommendations for improvements.

The group made seven suggestions to the task force, including ensuring that patients have access to high quality, safe, tested cannabis through a variety of distribution options; eliminating sales tax on medical cannabis and allow health insurance to cover it use, like any other prescription drug; and requesting Ottawa to expand funding for cannabis research.

Arthritis Society president Janet Yale said it’s vital that patients who use cannabis for medical purposes have a regulatory, pricing and taxation system similar to that for prescription drugs

“We know that medical cannabis is an effective therapy for thousands of Canadians with arthritis pain but we need to substantially expand the evidence base through enhanced investment in research,” said Yale.

Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana founder Jonathan Zaid said the government needs to ensue that medical patients are prioritized as recreational cannabis is legalized.

“Legal access to cannabis for legitimate medical purposes must be treated differently, with appropriate laws and regulations to enhance access, increase affordability and bolster research,” he said.

“Our own research has been looking at barriers to access and suggesting ways to address them,” Canadian AIDS Society executive director Gary Lacasse said. “Continued health services research will be important, as we implement a new system, to assess how well it is meeting the needs of patients.”

The groups’ full submission is available here.