Medical Cannabis Research Roundtable Urges Federal Investment in Research & Clinical Trials

May 4, 2016

The Arthritis Society Announces Annual $120,000 Research Grant

TORONTO – May 4, 2016 – The Medical Cannabis Research Roundtable, a high-level group of physicians, clinicians, patients, health charities, experts and medical researchers, today urged the federal government to invest $25 million over the next five years in medical research and trials into the health impacts and potential therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis. 

In its final report available today the Roundtable highlighted the scarcity of reliable, peer-reviewed and Canadian-based medical research on the subject of medical cannabis. Although Health Canada has permitted the prescription of medical cannabis for years, the previous federal government’s reluctance to fund basic research left many physicians unable to reassure themselves and their patients as to the therapeutic impact and possible benefits of medical cannabis. Consequently, the Roundtable fears that opportunities for treatment are being overlooked and potential pain relief therapies may be under-utilized. 

“As our country embarks on a debate about the legalization of recreational marijuana, we should not lose sight of the need to invest in medical science and proper trials to better understand the impacts and effects of medical cannabis,” said Dr. Jason McDougall Chair of the Roundtable and Professor with the Departments of Pharmacology and Anaesthesia at Dalhousie University. “Physicians and patients are left with uncertainty about the potential therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis and particularly the potential to bring relief to those living with chronic pain.” 

As its principal recommendation, The Roundtable urges an investment of at least $25 million from the federal government over the next five years into medical research and clinical trials. It identifies three specific priorities for such funding: 
  • Basic Science – to have a better understanding of the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in disease, and to explore how medical cannabis impacts disease progression, physiological function, and how it is processed by the body.
  • Clinical Science – to include peer-reviewed observational and clinical trials with a focus on safety, efficacy, dosing and administration.
  • Health Services & Policy – to include the exploration of issues of wider policy concern such as equitable access to medical cannabis, how to manage and market medical cannabis in the context of legalization, knowledge transfer to health care workers and the broader public, social and economic impacts.

In addition to the Roundtable’s call for additional federal investment, The Arthritis Society announced a doubling of its own commitment to medical research to a total of $720,000 between 2015 and 2019. The Society also announced the creation of the Medical Cannabis Strategic Operating Grant, an ongoing annual commitment of at least $120,000 toward research into the impacts of medical cannabis.

“Patients with chronic conditions seeking relief face unfair barriers due to the lack of proper medical research. We all have a role to play in correcting that and The Arthritis Society is stepping up to the tune of three-quarters of a million dollars,” added Janet Yale, President and CEO of The Arthritis Society. “The election of a new government that has voiced its support for science and evidence-based policy making creates an ideal opportunity to commit to the sort of rigorous understanding of medical cannabis that should have occurred long ago.”

The Roundtable is also calling on other groups including health charities and privately funded research organizations to commit resources to better understanding the impact and benefits of medical cannabis. 
To build further on its work and deepen the consensus in favour of action, the Roundtable will hold a second national meeting in late 2016. A list of participants is attached.

The Arthritis Society has been setting lives in motion for over 65 years. Dedicated to a vision of living well while creating a future without arthritis, The Society is Canada's principal health charity providing education, programs and support to the over 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis. Since its founding in 1948, The Society has been the largest non‐government funder of arthritis research in Canada, investing over $190 million in projects that have led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with arthritis. The Arthritis Society is accredited under Imagine Canada's Standards Program. For more information and to make a donation, visit 
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For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact: 

Douglas Emerson 
National manager, communications 
The Arthritis Society 
W: 416.979.7228 x3348 
C: 647.706.0440