WATCH: Is Quebec’s Cannabis Registry a form of extortion?
MONTREAL — The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre launched the groundbreaking Quebec Cannabis Registry on Monday.
The province-wide program is a world first and it will track patients who use medical marijuana for research purposes. But one prominent pot activist calls it a form of extortion since it is now the only way Quebec patients can have access to legal marijuana.
“When you say registry right away the first thing that comes to mind is sex registry or offender, so you have this stigma,” said Marc-Boris St-Maurice, director of the Montreal Compassion Club.
The long-time marijuana activist doesn’t like the name or mandatory nature of the Quebec Cannabis Registry. Doctors in Quebec can only prescribe medical marijuana if they and their patient agree to take part in the registry, which is essentially a clinical trial.
“I’m all in favour of more research,” said St-Maurice.
“My concern is that the Collège des médecins du Québec is making this a condition, a non-negotiable condition for prescription of cannabis.”
Medical marijuana is legal across the country and until recently Health Canada controlled production and who got access to the drug.
But the federal government changed the rules in April of last year, stating: “Dried marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. The Government of Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana when authorized by a physician.”
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Meaning it’s now up to doctors to decide who gets access.
“It’s really in my view a kind of hypocrisy on the part of politicians to wash their hands on the shoulders of physicians and to wash their hands considering the safety of patients,” deplored Dr. Yves Robert, secretary of the Quebec college of physicians.
The college of physicians argues the measure is being implemented to protect patients. But some worry that forcing people to participate in a study if they want access to the drug amounts to extortion.
“I think it’s a form of scientific extortion that we’re using people’s needs and their illness to force them into something they don’t necessarily want,” said St-Maurice.
The registry will help provide crucial data to eventually help doctors determine the proper dosage, different strains and side effects of medical marijuana.
“There will be benefits for the patient and its identification is totally anonymous,” insisted Robert. “The only person who will know who the patient is, is the physician, not the researcher.”
WATCH ABOVE: Quebec registry will track medicinal pot use to determine safety, effectiveness
Still, some patients may be reluctant to take the legal route, considering the stigma surrounding marijuana. The Compassion Club will continue to provide pot to patients who may not want to be monitored for four years, as required by the registry.
“I’ve had two major surgeries in the last year and the only relief that I can even possibly get is from cannabis product,” said one Montreal man who hasn’t been able to find a doctor willing to prescribe him pot.
And only time will tell how many patients and doctors will be willing to go on the record and participate in Quebec’s Cannabis registry.