Health Canada revises guide to adverse effects of medical cannabis

According to documents obtained by the CBC, Health Canada has drastically revised its entries on cannabis for medical professionals.

An update to the government’s 2013 medical marijuana manual for health-care works, due to be released sometime this year, adds to the “adverse effects” section by more than 50 per cent.

The new guide has added new sections on adolescents, sperm and testicular health, depression, epilepsy treatment, and the impact of cannabis on driving.

“Studies have shown that acute cannabis administration (ie. THC) affects areas of the brain involved in perception, attention, concentration, inhibitory/impulsivity control, executive control/decision-making, awareness, alertness, and co-ordination all of which are required to safety operate a motor vehicle,” the document reads.

CBC, which did not release the new guide to the public, said the guide’s tone was balanced, “often citing conflicting research and cautioning against hard conclusions.”

The document also adds references to vaping, cannabis extracts and fresh cannabis, where previously it only described the use of dried cannabis for medical use.

Representatives from the Ministry of Health said the guide is a result of new research over the last three years and will help the government task force as it begins investigating the path to legalization.

Reactions to cannabis listed in the document are partially compiled from Health Canada’s “adverse reaction” database which records reported side-effects from pharmaceutical producers, patients and others. Since 2014, when government licenced producers became authorized for production, manufacturers have been required to report the effects of medical cannabis.

The government database lumps all substances being used by one person at a time, combining any observed effects, resulting in entries that list cocaine, heroin, marijuana and oxycontin being used at one time and having the resulting adverse effects of “aggression, drug abuse, drug dependence, drug diversion.”

When the licensed producer program was introduced “medical marijuana” began being seen on the list, in addition to the previously used “marijuana.”

Since the program was introduced in 2014, 14 reports have been made on medical cannabis.