What is needed across Canada now is a legal regime that has real consequences for pharmaceutical companies.
Canada's federal government is refusing to let the nation's legal cultivators of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis spread the word about the CBD-rich kind. This is in spite of the fact that the chemical CBD (also known as cannabidiol) provides some of marijuana's most sought-after healing powers, according to medical studies.
To be fully accepted by the medical establishment, the delivery method for medical marijuana has to evolve. In other words, smoking or eating cannabis-infused foods must be replaced by slow-release, standardized-dosage pills or capsules. And they have to be pharmaceutical-grade.
What distinguishes this epidemic is not only its catastrophic toll --hundreds of thousands dead, uncountable millions harmed -- but also the fact that, unlike SARS, Ebola or influenza, this epidemic has no end in sight. The "why" is complicated, but it relates in part to prevalent beliefs about the role of these drugs in medical practice.
Today, doctors' offices are inundated with people who have been harmed more than helped by these drugs. Thousands more are dead. And yet the marketing continues, with pain specialists and advocacy groups opposing moves to curtail opioid prescription, their efforts financed by the very companies that make these drugs.
Fentanyl stole from me, from my family and from countless others across Canada. I've had items stolen from me before. In high school, someone broke into my locker and took my iPod. I remember my mom telling me, "Life goes on." Last year, someone stole funds from my bank account. Life goes on. Sometimes, though, it doesn't. On February 28, 2015, my older brother took what he thought was an Oxycontin tablet while he was out partying. He went home, he went to bed and he never woke up.
he false notion that opioids are safe, effective treatments for chronic pain was inculcated by the companies that manufacture them, with self-styled "experts" preaching this gospel to front-line physicians. Incredibly, this happened in the absence of good evidence that the benefits of long-term opioid use outweigh the risks.
For weeks now, Ontario's Minister of Health, Deb Matthews, has been trading barbs with federal Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, over whether or not she should intervene in Health Canada's decision to approve the generic version of the painkiller oxycodone. As this debate plays out and the attention starts to focus on the intergovernmental conflict instead of the important public health debate, we must not lose sight of three simple facts.
Monday's announcement by federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq that she will not interfere with the approval of generic OxyContin is just the latest development in what has become a major public health crisis. When the legal and regulatory framework results in a situation in which more than a dozen Canadians die each week because of an accidental prescription drug overdose, that framework needs to be changed.
So there I am in my last column agonizing over whether Canada should ban that obscene and hateful Internet video called Innocence of Muslims, when it occurs to me that it might be a really good idea to come up with an example of freedom of speech in action. Something easily understandable. Something vivid. Something gutsy.