On Oct. 17th of this year, recreational cannabis will be legalized in Canada. While most of the nation is in favour of legalization, there are many questions about how these upcoming changes will impact the medical market. The following are six major distinctions for medical cannabis for Canadians as recreational legalization approaches.

“Medical cannabis is highly personalized,” says James O’Hara, President and CEO of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana. “The effects can vary from person to person because every patient is different. They have different needs and may have different reactions.”

This fact can be almost entirely mitigated by sound education. “The majority of patients we’re seeing currently are new to cannabis,” says O’Hara. “Without proper assessment and education, it’s very common for patients to take doses that are too high and thus have an overly intense experience.” There are professional cannabis educators who are well-versed in the options and can help those considering medical cannabis therapy choose strains and dosages that may meet the patient need most appropriately.

“Health care professionals may assist in understanding contraindications with other medications patients are on, or other conditions they may have,” says O’Hara. “Health care practitioners really need to analyze the individual needs of each patient; which is something you won’t get outside of the medical environment.”

Sabrina Ramkellawan, Vice President of Clinical Affairs at TerrAscend oversees Solace Health Network, a diverse network of health care providers and educators that deliver personalized assessments, education, and care to help patients successfully initiate medical cannabis therapy, as an option. “Through medical cannabis therapy, guidance is available in terms of strain selection and dosing,” she says. “Educators are knowledgeable about products and programs in the industry that can help patients begin alternative therapies. Finding the right option is a process that takes time and generally includes follow-up visits, so it’s important that patients meet with health care practitioners more than once.”

Though there are still some hurdles to getting reimbursement for medical cannabis, the option exists in many cases. Medical cannabis can be quite expensive, and according to Ramkellawan, the biggest thing for patients is paying out of pocket. “We are seeing more insurance companies covering medical cannabis and in time will evaluate trending with other medication use.” she says. For insurance companies that don’t provide a policy for coverage, cannabis coverage can be pursued on a case-bycase basis. “At Solace Health Network, in addition to patient educators, we have a reimbursement specialist who assists in patient navigation with insurance providers to secure coverage,” Ramkellawan says.

“There is a misperception that cannabis therapy is associated with getting high, but that’s just not the case,” says Ramkellawan. “We titrate people very slowly to find the balance where they’re functional and symptoms are controlled.” Health care practitioners who administer medical cannabis are wellversed in providing unique therapies that minimize discomfort and adverse effects for patients.

The imminent legalization of recreational cannabis has almost no bearing on the role medical cannabis therapy may play for patient need. It is critical to consult with a health care provider about medical cannabis and get informed on therapies available to patients.

The health care team at Solace Health Network can help you learn how to access a variety of safe and convenient options for medicinal cannabis use.

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