Wednesday, April 14, 1999
PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA FOR HEALTH AND MEDICAL PURPOSES
Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.):
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Rosemont for this motion
on the medical use of marijuana. This debate needs to be held.
In my view, cannabis for palliation has a place. There are instances of terminal cancer,
AIDS, chemotherapy wasting, epilepsy and glaucoma where it looks like cannabis has
a positive effect. I especially believe that it has a place when there is no other
product that works.
We are debating the medical use of marijuana only. I think that good medical practice
would say yes to the medical use of marijuana if there were no other choice. As an
example, heroin, which is considered to be an
illicit drug in Canada, is available to medical practitioners for this very purpose
and if heroin, which is a potent illicit drug, is available, the argument would say,
why not the medical use of cannabis.
There are some difficulties with the medical use of marijuana. This is not a straightforward
issue. Smoked marijuana is impure. In fact it is a chemical cocktail.
[.] 1800 [+] [-]
Many of the medications we use for palliation are in fact a cocktail, but we have
some choice over their constituents. The impurity of THC and the other constituents
in marijuana is a problem. THC or cannibinoids are but one component of smoked pot,
which is the common expression for this medication.
There are some new studies that state that cannabis has some positive medical effects.
The recent one which I would like to quote from today is from the Institute of Medicine
in the U.S. This was reported recently in
The Washington Post. The Institute of Medicine is an independent advisory body and
the study did take some time. It was quite eagerly looked upon for some help in this
debate, a debate that is complex.
The basic conclusions of this study were that marijuana smoke can have an important
effect on certain disease states. The study states While we see a future in the
development of cannibinoid drugs, we see little future in
smoked marijuana as a medicine . There we have the division. The cannibinoids in marijuana
have a fairly positive future. This study suggested that smoked marijuana might well
not be the way to go.
As the study went on, there were very specific issues raised.
Pain relief is probably the biggest commercial marketplace for cannibinoids. It went
on to say that for nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, cannibinoids are mildly
effective but other preparations may be just as good. For the other things, glaucoma, migraines, Parkinson's, Huntington's disease and whatnot, not nearly as impressive
results were found.
If I can summarize this report, I would say that cannibinoids or THC in marijuana
do have some positive benefits, especially in the treatment of pain. That would suggest
to me for pain relief in a palliative sense for
serious illnesses such as cancer and possibly AIDS this may well be a useful product.
One of the other big difficulties with the medical use of marijuana is the likelihood
that recreational use will become more difficult to control. That is not the case
with other products, like heroin, which are chemically
Marijuana of course can be grown and is fairly easily grown. It can be grown in a
house under certain circumstances. It can certainly be grown in the summer in Canada.
That makes the control of recreational use more difficult. There are some who say
that recreational use should be allowed unfettered. That is not something I agree with at
I would like to suggest some potential solutions for the problems we have. On the
one hand, it looks like cannibinoids may well be useful for palliation. On the other
hand, there are some difficulties with control of
the recreational use.
The potential solutions would be, number one, to isolate these cannibinoids for specific
use. There is some new research being done along those lines.
We could also find alternate routes of administration. As my hon. colleague across
the way mentioned, the oral route is not the best route for this particular preparation.
Gastric absorption is not perfect and patients have
told me that. There are three other potential routes.
There is a new waxy capsule that has been developed. This is from the University of
Mississippi in the United States. Initial research there looks very positive. It
is absorbed quite rapidly. It is not the ideal way
to administer for many people, but for individuals in these tough circumstances I
think that might be a fair alternate.
An oral or nasal spray of the very specific THC might also be possible. It has been
suggested and in fact has been used in research.
[.] 1805 [+] [-]
A patch which is another mechanism of administration has also been looked at.
This would not be a controversy at all if it were not for the recreational use of
marijuana. This would have been done long ago under an enlightened medical system.
There are a host of individuals who use the medical use of marijuana as a gateway
toward a larger use. As a practitioner, I had the opportunity to treat patients for
drug problems. I do not go down the road of softening
marijuana use for recreational purposes for one second. The reasons are legion but
I do not have too much time so I will be narrow in this focus.
Some 5% to 15% of the youth using cannabis become habituated. I did not use the word
addicted because that is not the appropriate word for marijuana. Habituated is a
more appropriate word. There are those who say not to bother with those small numbers
because many, many kids who use this preparation go on to become perfectly healthy. I
grant that as absolutely true.
I would ask those individuals to attend in any city in the country a drug rehab facility.
Go to a NarAnon meeting and listen to the youth and sometimes the adults who talk
about the problems they have had with
marijuana misuse. Ask about the school attendance from youth who have been habituated
to marijuana. Ask about the personality changes these youth undergo. Ask about the
problems they have undergone with the legal system, not just because of their marijuana use but because of fencing and the other things that go along with the drug subculture.
The medical use of the specific components of marijuana have some merit. I am quite
cautious about going down the road of recreational use and in fact am vigorously
opposed in that regard. Purifying and looking at THC in its purest form is ideal.
Smoked marijuana for those who have absolutely no other choice or those at the end of life
could be approached.