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Medical Cannabis

Medical Cannabis

Since 2001, medical cannabis (also known as marijuana) has been a legal treatment option in Canada for certain health conditions, including arthritis. An estimated two thirds of Canadians who use cannabis for medical purposes do so to help manage arthritis symptoms.

"Medical cannabis" refers to any products (either natural or synthetic) made from cannabis or its active ingredients, and intended for health purposes. In Canada, the only legal source of medical cannabis products is from a Licensed Producer.Health Canada’s rules governing access to cannabis for medical purposes are called the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.

Important notes:

  • While medical cannabis is legal for use in Canada with a physician's order, medical cannabis is not a Health Canada-approved treatment. To date, there is limited clinical evidence on the relative benefits and risks of medical cannabis on the treatment of arthritis.
  • Persons under age 25 should not use medical cannabis.
  • This information is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute the advice of a physician. Consult your physician or other relevant health professional for specific information on personal health matters to ensure that your individual circumstances are considered.
  • The Government of Canada is planning to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes in October 2018. PLEASE NOTE: Self-medicating with recreational cannabis is NOT a safe substitute for receiving medical cannabis from a licensed producer under the direction of your physician.
  • The Arthritis Society is a leading advocate for research into the use of cannabis for medical purposes, and for the needs of people who use cannabis for medical purposes. For more information, visit our medical cannabis advocacy page.

Education Resources

These resources can help people living with arthritis understand medical cannabis and its place among the potential treatment options for management of arthritis symptoms.

  • Impact of Cannabis Legalization for Patients

    Recreational cannabis is now legal in Canada. What does this mean for medical cannabis patients? We walk you through some of the most significant impacts of this change for you and your treatment options.

    Impact of Cannabis Legalization for Patients

  • Employer Resource: Medical Cannabis Employee Benefit Plan

    Since 2001, medical cannabis (also known as medical marijuana) has been a legal treatment option in Canada for certain health conditions, including chemotherapy induced nausea, spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis. Yet for most Canadians, medical cannabis is not covered by public or private plans, leaving them to carry the cost of treatment themselves.

    As a leading advocate for access to effective treatment options for people with chronic pain caused by arthritis, the Arthritis Society has developed a toolkit to encourage more employers to fund medical cannabis coverage through their company-sponsored employee benefit plans, modelled on our own benefits program. We have worked with a team of well-recognized doctors, pharmacists, and other experts in the field to develop the program and supporting toolkit.

    This program provides a cost-effective, sustainable and progressive way of ensuring that scientifically validated use of prescribed medical cannabis can be supported through your company’s benefit plan in the same way that other prescription drugs are accessed through these plans.

    What's in the toolkit

    The tools and resources included in the program are as follows:

    • Process outline for creating your own program
    • Sample coverage program
    • Sample Substance Management Policy
    • Sample questionnaire for engaging your employees
    • Sample employee program introduction
    • Sample employee Q&A

    Request a toolkit

    We’re happy to share these resources with interested organizations – please provide your details below and we’ll send you a PDF copy:

    You can also read more about this program in our announcement.

    For more information about the Arthritis Society’s program, or about implementing medical cannabis coverage in your own employee benefits program, please contact us.

  • Medical cannabis: A guide to access

    This guide is intended for adults only. The Arthritis Society does not endorse or recommend medical cannabis.

    This guide has been created for educational purposes to provide information about medical cannabis as a potential treatment option for arthritis symptoms.

    Download Medical cannabis: A guide to access PDF

  • Medical cannabis: Glossary of terms

    The Arthritis Society does not endorse or recommend medical cannabis.

    There are many terms used in describing the use of cannabis for medical purposes. This quick reference guide walks you through some important definitions.

    Download the Medical cannabis: Glossary of terms PDF

  • The Science of Medical Cannabis for Arthritis

    Quebec Forum on Arthritis 2016
    Two thirds of Canadians taking medical cannabis are doing so to help ease the pain of arthritis. What does this mean for you? Join Dr. Jason McDougall (Dalhousie) and Dr. Mark Ware (McGill) to discuss the science and clinical practice of using medical cannabis for arthritis: what it does, how you might access it through your doctor, what some of the questions are, and how research will seek to answer those questions.

  • Medical Cannabis: What people with arthritis need to know

    Dr. Jason McDougall of Dalhousie University, who is embarking on a three-year investigation of medical cannabis, answers your commonly asked questions.

  • Accessing medical cannabis for arthritis

    Dr. Danial Schecter, a prescribing physician, describes the process for accessing medical cannabis in Canada, and the kinds of questions patients should ask their physician when considering medical cannabis to treat their arthritis symptoms.

  • Rachel's story, part 1: Living with rheumatoid arthritis

    Rachel Janzen describes living with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, and the challenge of finding a treatment that will help manage her pain without serious side effects.

  • Medical Cannabis Advocacy

    For people living with chronic pain, the options for medication to assist with pain management are limited, and each has its drawbacks. For these people, medical cannabis offers a potential alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals such as NSAIDs and opioids. However, there are many unanswered questions about the use of medical cannabis to treat arthritis symptoms, and physicians have received no formal guidelines about when, how and for whom to prescribe medical cannabis.

    To address this gap, the Arthritis Society is funding research into the use of medical cannabis for treatment of arthritis symptoms, and is leading a coalition of voices from across the Canadian health care sector in calling on the Government of Canada to invest $25 million over five years to conduct research into medical cannabis. At the same time, we are working to ensure that the process by which Canadians access this treatment option is fair, reliable, safe and affordable.

    The following resources address our advocacy position on these issues.

    Arthritis Society Position Paper – Medical Cannabis

    The world of medical cannabis is complex. This document lays out the Arthritis Society’s advocacy position on issues related to research and accessibility.

    The Arthritis Society is leading the charge along with other stakeholders to ensure that medical cannabis is affordable. This open letter to Health Canada and Finance Canada spells out the arguments against applying an excise tax to medical cannabis.

    Cannabis Excise Tax Joint Submission

  • Clearing the Air – Roundtable report on research priorities for medical cannabis

    Clearing the Air: Roundtable Report

    Summary Report of the Medical Cannabis Research Roundtable, urging Federal investment in medical cannabis research and clinical trials.

  • Joint Submission to Federal Legalization Task Force

    Joint submission of the Arthritis Society, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) and the Canadian Aids Society (CAS) to the Federal Task Force on legalization. The report recommends that any legalization framework must continue to meet the needs of people using cannabis for medical purposes.

    Joint Submission to Federal Legalization Task Force

  • Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance position paper

    Canadians living with arthritis continue to join our call for more research into the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis. The Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance issued their position paper on the subject.

For more news releases related to our medical cannabis advocacy and other current issues, visit our Newsroom.