Pubdate: Thu, 15 Feb 2018
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Gillian Slade
Page: A4


Public awareness of possible harm from marijuana use will be part of a
public campaign in the coming days as July approaches when the federal
government will legalize the use of the drug.

"We will have a public education campaign around the legalization of
cannabis," a spokesperson for the Alberta Cannabis Secretariat said in
an email. "However, the details of public education coming from the
federal government have not yet been finalized."

Federal government details are necessary first in order to ensure
there are no duplicated efforts at the provincial level.

The Alberta College of Pharmacists and other health professional
organizations have been very strong in advocating and recognizing
potential risks that go along with cannabis use, said Greg Eberhart,
registrar of the Alberta College of Pharmacists.

There is the need to make people aware of the risk and impact on early
brain development in individuals up to their early 20s, said Eberhart.

"The last thing we want is to see policy roll out today that is going
to negatively impact generations in the future," said Eberhart.

So much of what to expect in the future depends on the regulatory
structure Ottawa builds around this, and many details are still not
known, Eberhart explained.

The Canadian Pharmacist Association, and a number of other
organizations, are developing educational materials for pharmacists
and other health professionals on two levels. Pharmacists have a
responsibility and role to inquire and have discussions about
substances that a patient may be taking. This relates to prescription
and non-prescription drugs including natural health products, vitamins
and alcohol they consume including substances taken

"We believe once federal legislation changes, so that cannabis is
decriminalized, that will open up the discussion between pharmacists
and individuals ... as it relates to their lifestyle and prescription
medication," said Eberhart.

The number of doctors prescribing marijuana has increased
significantly. At the end of 2016 there were 329 doctors in Alberta
registered to authorize it as a treatment for 5,254 patients. By April
2017, the number had increased to 495, and authorized patients
approached 10,000, according to statistics published by the CPSA.

Even after marijuana is legalized patients wanting medical marijuana
will still need to obtain "authorization" from a physician, said a
spokesperson for the Alberta Medical Association. It is not a
prescription but rather an "authorization."

There are still many unanswered questions surrounding legalizing
marijuana, such as whether it will be covered by health insurance,
whether it will be part of hospital formulary systems and whether it
will be monitored as triplicate prescriptions are, according to the
AMA's website.
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