How does medical cannabis work/what are the effects?
The effects of medical cannabis occur when the main compounds (including THC, CBD and other cannabinoids, and terpenes) interact with our endocannabinoid systems (ECS) via cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found in places like our brain, organs, connective tissues and immune cells. The interactions between the cannabis compounds and our endocannabinoid systems can have a variety of effects on immune function including helping with inflammation, appetite, metabolism and energy homeostasis, cardiovascular function, digestion, pain, reproduction, psychiatric disease, psychomotor behaviour, memory, sleep and the regulation of stress. 3
What are the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid receptors in relation to medical cannabis?
The Endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a type of communications system within the brain and body that affects a variety of very important functions, including metabolism, circulation, energy and organ function. The ECS is comprised of a collection of specialized lipids, their cannabinoid receptors and enzymes that help maintain basic functions and respond to illness. Through various actions, endocannabinoids are thought to affect and play an important role in a plethora of physiological symptoms including pain, appetite, memory, mood, inflammation, sleep health, stress levels, anxiety, digestion and many more. When activated by cannabinoids (i.e. THC, CBD, etc.), the cannabinoid receptors are known to change the way the body regulates. There are two types of cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body, called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are most present in the brain, spinal cord, and some peripheral organs and tissues such as the spleen, white blood cells, endocrine gland and parts of the reproductive, gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. CB1 receptors are thought to affect memory, sleep, appetite, stress and pain, and are responsible for the psychoactive effect of cannabis. In contrast, CB2 receptors are responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis, as they’re located in immune cells, in the tonsils and spleen, and are known to help reduce inflammation and repair tissue damage. CB2 receptor agonists have become the increasingly popular subjects of research for their potential anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.
How do you use medical cannabis? Are there alternatives to smoking?
Medical cannabis can be administered using a variety of methods. The length of effectiveness as well as overall effect itself will vary depending on the method of Intake.
- Vaporization: Vaporization is an effective way to deliver the therapeutic effects of cannabis without the toxic by-products of burning plant matter. Vaporizers work by heating the cannabis past the boiling point of the active compounds but below the point of plant matter combustion. Vaporization is generally accepted as a method that is safer than smoking.
- Tea: Cannabis tea is usually made by infusing the leaves of the plant in hot water or milk. While water based tea is generally not very efficient, using milk, which contains fat, proves to be more effective.
- Cannabis Oil: A concentrated form of medical cannabis typically ingested in small doses either by tincture or in capsule form.
- Edibles: Cannabis can be infused into butter or oil that is then cooked in food. Edibles, as they are generally referred as, usually take longer to take effect than smoking or vaporizing and will last much longer. 1
Is medicating with medical cannabis at work allowed?
There is no scientifically defined dose of cannabis for any specific medical condition. If you have not consumed cannabis before, it would be prudent to have someone with you the first time you use it. Dosing remains highly individualized and relies greatly on titration (i.e. finding the right dose where potential therapeutic effects are maximized while adverse effects are minimized). The current available information suggests most individuals use less than 3 grams daily of dried marijuana whether that amount is taken orally, inhaled, or a combination of both. 5
How do I decide which strain to choose?
Consult your physician for advice on the type of strain that’s best for your needs. 3
How long until medical cannabis expires?
Although it is known that THC content in cannabis degrades over time, there has been no data to suggest a firm “expiry date”. Store your medication in a cool, dark location for the best results. Health Canada stated: “The ideal storage temperature for the finished dried cannabis product is 2 °C to 6 °C with a shelf life of 12 months.” 2
How much medical cannabis can a patient carry?
Patients with valid prescriptions and documentation are allowed to carry 30 times their daily limit, up to 150g within Canada. Traveling inside Canada is allowed, but make sure you have your prescription documentation with you. Carrying medical cannabis outside of Canada is strictly prohibited. 3
Can I drive while using medical cannabis?
Using cannabis or any cannabis product can impair your concentration, your ability to think and make decisions, and your reaction time and coordination. This can affect your motor skills, including your ability to drive. 5
Can I drink alcohol while using medical cannabis?
Cognitive impairment may be greatly increased when cannabis is consumed along with alcohol or other drugs which affect the activity of the nervous system (e.g. opioids, sleeping pills, other psychoactive drugs) 5
How much medical cannabis should I use? Is there an average daily amount?
There is no scientifically defined dose of cannabis for any specific medical condition. If you have not consumed cannabis before, it would be prudent to have someone with you the first time you use it. Dosing remains highly individualized and relies greatly on titration (i.e. finding the right dose where potential therapeutic effects are maximized while adverse effects are minimized). The current available information suggests most individuals use less than 3 grams daily of dried marijuana whether that amount is taken orally, inhaled, or a combination of both.
Is medical cannabis right for me?
This can only be determined by discussing with your physician the possible health benefits and potential risk factors associated with using medical cannabis. 3
Will using medical cannabis affect my sleep?
Cannabis is known to have an impact on wake/sleep cycles. Discuss your intended use of cannabis with your physician and the licensed producer’s client support staff to best address your needs. 2
Will using medical cannabis affect my eating habits?
Medical cannabis has been thought to effectively decrease nausea and stimulate appetite to aid symptoms from conditions such as cancer and AIDS. And while an increased appetite is one of the beneficial effects many people experience, there are strains available that are high in THCV that can actually suppress appetite – if that’s the effect needed for your condition. It’s important to discuss your medical symptoms and your concerns with your physician to address your specific needs. 2
Is using medical cannabis safe?
Much like any medication, medical cannabis has both benefits and risks. Visit http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/alt_formats/pdf/marihuana/info/cons-eng.pdf for more information. 2
Will I become addicted to medical cannabis?
Like anything, there is potential for abuse and addiction with cannabis. Studies have shown that the addiction rate for cannabis is estimated to be 9%. Speak with your physician to learn more. 2 “Notably, the lifetime risk of developing cannabis dependence among those who had ever used cannabis was found to be lower than that estimated for tobacco (32%), heroin (23%), cocaine (17%), alcohol (15%) and stimulants (11%).” (Substance Abuse in Canada: The Effects of Cannabis Use During Adolescence; Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (2015), page 53.
What do I do if I have an adverse reaction to medical cannabis?
Your actions should directly reflect the severity of your reaction. If severe, please call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. If your reaction is mild, contact your Physician as soon as possible. Either way, please let your physician know about your reaction. 3 You can report any suspected adverse reactions associated with the use of this product to the Canada Vigilance Program, but it is important to note that this program does not provide medical information and you should still contact your physician.
Can I register with multiple Licensed Producers?
Yes. The ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations) guidelines allow you to register with more than one licensed producer. However, in order for the medical documents to be valid, you must use separate, original medical documentation for each licensed producer. It is at the discretion of physicians to permit splitting prescriptions for this purpose. 3
Does my health care insurance cover my prescription cost for medical cannabis?
Unfortunately, most insurance plans do not cover the cost of medical cannabis at this time. Some plans do offer coverage, so we suggest contacting your insurance company directly to learn your specific scope of coverage. 3
Is medical cannabis eligible as an income tax medical expense?
Yes. You can claim your sales receipts from your medical cannabis on your income taxes. 1
What documentation do I use as proof that I’m allowed to possess medical cannabis?
In order to comply with the ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations) and prove to authorities you’re legally allowed to possess medical cannabis, it is necessary to keep your patient label or container the medicine came in with you at all times.