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article imageMediJean: Canada needs an intelligent debate on medical marijuana Special

By David Silverberg     Oct 18, 2013 in Health
Canadians deserve a smart conversation about medical marijuana's future, says Anton Mattadeen of bio-pharma company MediJean. The company launched an online national debate on medical marijuana where Canadians coast-to-coast can participate.
Running for 30 days, The Medical Marijuana Debates invite the public, patients, doctors, law enforcement personnel and politicians to engage in a discussion on medical cannabis.
The Medical Marijuana Debates are being launched in conjunction with Canoe.ca, part of the Quebecor Media network, the largest press group in Canada.
The Debates come at a timely moment for the country: Health Canada announced in June new regulations that will change the way Canadians access marijuana for medical purposes. These regulations require patients who need medical marijuana to receive a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner before having medical marijuana shipped directly to them from a Health Canada-approved Licensed Producer.
As of Oct. 1, Health Canada isn't accepting new applications for Canadians to grow their own medical marijuana. The government will completely exit the medical marijuana business beginning April 1, 2014.
To learn more about the just-launched Debates, we spoke to Anton Mattadeen, Chief Strategy Officer of MediJean, a company that recently won a special Research and Development exemption granted by Health Canada to grow medical marijuana for research and development purposes. We wanted to find out why a national discussion will be an integral step forward to teaching Canadians about a medicine often derided as a recreational hobby.
Digital Journal: What are the main facts Canadians should know about medical marijuana?
Anton Mattadeen: Canadians need to know this is going to be a legitimate industry. This is not a fly-by-night operation. And there is no one place to air a variety of ideas about medical marijuana and to have an intelligent conversation about this medicine.
The Medical Marijuana Debates will serve up opinions that may shape other people's opinions. When more people are talking about medical marijuana, it's better for the whole industry.
Digital Journal: Has Canada talked enough about medical marijuana in the past decade? Do you see a gap in the discussion?
Anton Mattadeen: There’s been a lot of talk but not a conversation about medical marijuana. There hasn’t been a respectful sharing of ideas. Canadians need to realize medical marijuana is something that is going to affect everybody. And we need to have more cohesive voice discussing the topic.
Digital Journal: We've seen how the Medical Marijuana Debates has a wide range of voices sharing their opinions on the topic, from parents of sick children to MS patients. What does that variety of perspectives offer to readers?
Anton Mattadeen: Multiple perspectives demonstrate there's an awful lot of expertise in this industry at all levels. Look at the patients of the old Health Canada Marihuana Medical Access Program – those folks developed lots of expertise and have a lot of information locked up in their head. We've also seen newly released scientific data adding layers of professionalism to this industry, along with tons of business acumen.
The goal of this entire debate process is to get us to a place where no one feels uncomfortable about discussing medical marijuana. People have to realize marijuana can be a medical solution for people’s health as opposed to something used recreationally.
Digital Journal: What do The Medical Marijuana Debates offer to other countries who may be curious about how medical marijuana can affect their citizens?
Anton Mattadeen: It sets an example of how to create an intelligent conversation that benefits all participants. The new Health Canada regulations are much more progressive than other decisions made by governments around the world. Canada is taking a very responsible approach and no one is sticking their head in sand.
Digital Journal: How will Health Canada's changes to its medical marijuana program affect Canadian patients?
Anton Mattadeen: It ensures patients get high-quality medicine. Let’s face the facts: The program now in place looks after just under 40,000 Canadians. The government admits through its own research that hundreds of thousands of Canadians have medical requirements and are self-medicating with marijuana because the program is very difficult to become part of. It's very paper intensive. But the new program is simple and the patient discusses his or her ailment with the doctor, gets a prescription, and then a licensed producer can assure a high level of quality control.
I spoke to a brain injury victim who uses marijuana for neuropathic pain, but he’s never had the opportunity to become part of Health Canada's old program. So he is getting his marijuana through black market channels. That helps him with pain but he never knows what he's going to get. So he’s excited he can go to a licensed producer to get consistent medicine.
Digital Journal: Where do you hope medical marijuana in Canada will be five years from now?
Anton Mattadeen: I hope the stigma attached to the substance itself is pushed aside. One of the reasons I'm so happy about this debate process is that when people start talking about medical marijuana and digest information based on facts, those facts change a lot of opinions.
This is the normal path for drug discovery; it's something that may start off on the periphery but it evolves into medicine through research and science. The same stigma once existed around opium and now it's commonplace to hear about its derivatives like morphine, or codeine. Who hasn't used Tylenol?
Right now people spend lots of time dealing with misconceptions. It would be great in five years from now if a patient could walk into any health care practitioner's office with a particular ailment and medical marijuana is one of the options openly addressed and offered. Medical marijuana is a benign substance that has great therapeutic value and it has never killed anyone via an overdose. It’s been put on this planet for a reason.
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