Fair Access to Medical Cannabis for Albertans

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FAIR ACCESS TO MEDICINE!

The goal of this petition is to allow Alberta patients the right to obtain fair and equal access to medical cannabis, which is their constitutional right.  Despite Alberta having the 2nd highest number of medical cannabis patients in Canada, they are among the most restricted when it comes to timely access to care.

Currently, over 800,000 Albertans live with chronic pain. In fact, Alberta is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Statistics indicate that deaths in Alberta due to accidental opioid overdose are up 40% from last year! Understandably, many patients refuse opioids due to their fear of becoming a statistic and yet do not have reasonable access to medical cannabis, which is an effective alternative treatment option for many people living with chronic pain.

Alberta patients place hundreds of calls per week to out-of-province medical cannabis clinics, attempting to get access to care in a timely manner. Due to the policies governing both who is eligible to prescriber and telemedicine practice in Alberta, skilled cannabis prescribers and clinics must turn all of those patients away. This leaves Albertans at a serious disadvantage, as they do not have the same opportunities to access care as other Canadians. We believe that this creates unnecessary hardships and challenges for the hundreds of thousands of Albertans who are ill.

Albertans constitutional rights are being violated. Medical marijuana patients in Alberta must return to their prescribing physician for reassessment every three (3) months: typically in person even if the patient lives hours away from a medical cannabis clinic. Returning to a physician’s office four (4) times per year is unrealistic for most patients. This barrier to reasonable access, especially when there are more realistic options, such as telemedicine consultations, has forced many patients to either consider obtaining illegal marijuana of questionable quality - putting their health and safety at risk – or forfeiting their right to access cannabis altogether.

We propose that nurse practitioners in Alberta and/or nurse practitioners that are trained in authorizing cannabis from outside of Alberta have the authorization to recommend cannabis to patients who have a medical need. Additionally, we propose utilizing telemedicine technology to increase reasonable access to the Alberta population.  We hope this strategy will reduce the opiate crisis Albertans are facing while simultaneously offering effective treatment options to the Albertan patient base.

SOLUTION

We intend to present this petition to the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA). CARNA is the regulating body for nurses and nurse practitioners in Alberta. It has the power to change both the telemedicine and cannabis prescribing policies in their province. In addition to the petition, we will present them with an outline of a viable solution to help their patient base get timely access to care by working interprovincially with nurse practitioners who are experienced in prescribing cannabis with good effect. While we understand that CARNA’s current focus is on the opioid crisis, we believe that by providing a solution that creates an opportunity for Albertans to not only get timely access to medicine, but also access the robust follow up services that other Canadians are already benefitting from across the country. Specifically, on-demand cannabis education and support by cannabis experts to ensure that Alberta patients have the ultimate patient-cantered experience; accessing the help they need when they need it, rather than only at scheduled intervals, as per the model now.



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