Trudeau’s Gaping Barn Door

The barn door is wide open and the horses have bolted.
The barn door is wide open and the horses have bolted.

Another day, another multibillion-dollar deal. That’s the way it goes in the marijuana market these days as eager entrepreneurs scramble to position themselves for legalization. On Monday, a medical-marijuana company called MedReleaf (get it?) was snapped up for a dizzying $3.2-billion. The medical market is the back door to the honeypot.

According to marijuana producers and industry advocates, cannabis is a sort of magic elixir – good for all manner of ills including pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, glaucoma, PTSD and pain related to cancer or just about anything else. By acting as a substitute pain and anxiety reliever, cannabis, they claim, can reduce the use of alcohol, tobacco, opioids and antidepressants. The MedReleaf website (which features a picture of a smiling doctor) tells us that the company “leads the way in uncovering the immense potential of this medicine.”

At the same time, hundreds of Canadian military vets who suffer from PTSD claim they are in acute distress because Veterans Affairs Canada has cut their payouts for medical marijuana, which had soared to more than $60-million a year. Some were consuming enormous doses and say they can’t do without it.

So, what does the evidence say?

Dr. Mike Allan is director of evidence-based medicine for the University of Alberta.His group surveyed the medical literature on marijuana in order to develop national guidelines for family doctors across Canada. They came to some tough conclusions. They found that marijuana’s benefit for treating pain and nausea is “low or very low.” And so on. “For most things we shouldn’t be recommending it because we don’t have enough research to say if the benefits of the therapy outweigh the risks,” Dr. Allan told the CBC. As for mental-health problems such as anxiety, depression and PTSD, he said the research does not support the use of marijuana as a remedy. “The benefits, even if they’re real, are much smaller than what people might anticipate.”

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