Out-of-control medical pot claims

Pot adverts contravene Criminal Code, foes say
LETTER TO OTTAWA: Group says false advertising threat to safety
GORDON McINTYRE , The Province, 14 May 2015

Pamela McColl thinks she’s found a way to nail the scores of marijuana dispensaries that have opened in Vancouver, if only she could find an agency to go along.

The issue is a hot potato, with regulatory bodies, federal departments, police forces and city halls only too happy to pass it along.

Health Canada made it clear to The Province earlier this week that such dispensaries are illegal under the Food and Drugs Act, as is their advertising on radio and in print.

But Health Canada said it can only enforce advertising rules, not shut down the dispensaries.

“(But) I was told by Health Canada they do not look after illegal operations, only the licensees,” McColl said.

In frustration, McColl, a director with Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada, has turned to federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay, whose department oversees the Competition Bureau.

“It is our organization’s view that recent advertising of illegal marijuana retail operations have been running in Vancouver newspapers and radio stations contravening Canada’s Criminal Code, under which advertising regulations are governed,” she wrote MacKay.

By law, only licensed industrial growers — there are six in B.C. — can sell medicinal marijuana, and promotion of their products is strictly limited to name, strength and price.

Yet mosey into many street-front dispensaries and you’d be informed cannabis can apparently heal more ills than snake oil and echinacea combined.

“Claims are being made in regards to marijuana as a medicine that cannot be substantiated and which amount to false, misleading and deceptive advertising,” McColl said. “Such advertising and claims pose a serious threat to public safety.”

With marijuana retail stores popping up like Starbucks coffee houses, McColl said there are now 91 dispensaries in Vancouver.

There are many concerns, not the least being the lack of child-proofing pot packages and marketing pot to teens, as some tobacco companies have done, she said.

“And our concern is, if selling marijuana becomes normal and commercial, Big Pot would get control, just like Big Tobacco. If the big guys get in, we’ll never get rid of them.”


Galore of harms of pot

‘Medicinal’ pot shops multiply in Vancouver despite health concerns
MARK HUME, The Globe and Mail, May. 03 2015
The effectiveness of marijuana in suppressing chronic pain, reducing nausea in chemotherapy patients and controlling muscle spasms, among other things, has allowed proponents to label the narcotic as a medicine.

That branding is now paying dividends for drug retailers in Vancouver, where a growing number of pot shops are opening, billing themselves as “medical marijuana dispensaries.”

But marijuana is not a medicine, it is not approved by Health Canada and the way research is trending, it will never get that coveted designation.

Across Canada, doctors may prescribe it for cancer patients and others with pain when conventional therapeutic options fail. But medical professional organizations such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. are struggling with how to regulate it, because doctors know that marijuana use comes with health risks.

While medical professionals are carefully reflecting on the health implications of more liberal marijuana laws, however, dope retail stores are opening up in Vancouver like saloons in a gold-rush town. A few months ago there were 20; now there are more than 80.

The City of Vancouver is about to hold public hearings into the regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries, but Mayor Gregor Robertson makes it sound as though the big concern is just coming up with a new class of business licence to control where the outlets are located.

“As a city, we just can’t let these shops be everywhere all over town,” he said recently. “And certainly we don’t want them close to schools.”

No, we certainly don’t, and here’s why: Medical research is increasingly indicating marijuana use can be damaging to your health, especially if you are young.

A study published April 16 in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that even moderate use of marijuana can lead to changes in the brain. The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to compare the brains of 18- to 25-year-olds.

“The nucleus accumbens – a brain region known to be involved in reward processing – was larger and altered in its shape and structure in the marijuana users compared [with] non-users,” EurekAlert!, an online science news service, reported in describing the study.

In 2013, Northwestern Medicine published a study in Schizophrenia Bulletin stating that teens who were heavy marijuana users (smoking daily for three years) showed brain abnormalities in which structures related to memory shrank and collapsed.

A 2009 study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that being a marijuana smoker was associated with a 70-per-cent increased risk of testicular cancer and “the elevated risk … was associated with marijuana use prior to age 18.” It was suspected that boys who smoked during puberty were especially at risk.

In April, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported that marijuana use was associated with “cardiovascular complications” among young and middle-aged adults in France. We’re talking here about 34-year-olds having heart attacks.

“The general public thinks marijuana is harmless, but information revealing the potential health dangers of marijuana use needs to be disseminated to the public, policymakers and health-care providers,” Dr. Emilie Jouanjus, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

In 2009, the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology published a study that said marijuana smoke caused more damage to cells and DNA than tobacco smoke. And last November, preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions stated that breathing second-hand marijuana smoke can be just as damaging to your heart and blood vessels as second-hand cigarette smoke.

Marijuana has beneficial uses, as patients who use it to treat chronic pain can attest, but there are big health risks, too, and that fact shouldn’t be obscured by a storefront sign that claims a drug shop is a medical dispensary.