Cannabis in Canada: Facts, Laws, and Usage for Pain Management
How Medical Cannabis Can Help Pain Manangement
The term cannabis is used to refer to the cannabis sativa plant. Though it originated in Asia, the plant is now grown globally, including in Canada. Cannabis products can come in many forms, including fresh/dried herbal material, oil, chemically concentrated extracts, edibles, and more. There are two well-researched cannabinoids out of the vast amount within the cannabis plant. These are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
THC is the chemical element that leads to the “high” reaction to cannabis, as it is responsible for the way your brain and body responds to the plant. THC does have therapeutic effects, though the higher the strength, the higher the possibility of seeing harmful effects. “The potency (concentration or strength) of THC in cannabis is often shown as a percentage of THC by weight (or by volume of an oil). THC potency in dried cannabis has increased from an average of 3% in the 1980s to around 15% today. Some strains can have an average as high as 30% THC.” For those unfamiliar with the term hemp, it is cannabis that contains less than 0.3% of THC in its flowers and leaves.
CBD doesn’t provide the “high” like THC. Instead, it has therapeutic properties that could improve anxiety, sleep habits, and act as a pain reliever for issues such as arthritis or migraines. An article about CBD oil and pain management states, “Anecdotally, people have credited CBD for helping them with their back pain. One of the main ways people do this is by using CBD oil in a massage.” The World Health Organization notes that “there is no evidence of any public health-related problems or abuse or dependence potential associated with the use of pure CBD.”
Cannabis is now legal in Canada. As of October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act is in effect. This act aims to:
- Keep cannabis out of the hands of youth
- Keep profits out of the pockets of criminals
- Protect public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis
As regulated by the Government of Canada, adults that are 18 years old and above, subject to provincial or territorial restrictions, are able to:
- Possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or equivalent in a non-dried form in public
- Share up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults
- Buy dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially-licensed retailer wherein provinces and territories without a regulated retail framework, individuals are able to purchase cannabis online from federally-licensed producers
- grow, from licensed seed or seedlings, up to 4 cannabis plants per residence for personal use
- make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products
The Government of Canada page also continues to confirm that “Cannabis edible products and concentrates will be legal for sale approximately one year after the Cannabis Act came into force on October 17th, 2018.”
Cannabis for Pain Management
Medical cannabis is an effective analgesic and an increasingly popular option for pain management. The human body naturally generates endocannabinoids that have been found to assist with sleep regulation, immune system responses, and most importantly, pain. It is interesting to note that psychoactive THC activates the same receptors as endocannabinoids.
The public is turning to cannabis as a safer alternative to the other standard pain relievers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioid prescription medications. In fact, opioids are incredibly addictive and when abused, can be fatal. NSAIDs can cause long term risks such as increased risk of stroke or heart attack. Cannabis sativa and its constituents, however, are considered safe and effective in comparison to their counterparts.
High-THC strains have been found to effectively relieve central and neuropathic pain; when other medications have been ineffective, high-THC strains have been used by cancer, AIDS, and fibromyalgia patients. High-CBD strains with low-THC content are beneficial for those who do not wish for the psychotropic effects of the THC to interfere with day-to-day activities.
A popular option for effective pain management using cannabis is CBD oil or topical lotions. For those who don’t wish to smoke or have the “high” that comes along with it, CBD oil is a great alternative. Anecdotal evidence shows that CBD for pain effective for various types of pain including various types of nerve pain or back pain such as that caused by ruptured/bulging discs, arthritis, osteoporosis, or scoliosis.
If tinctures, lotions, or smoking isn’t for you, there is still the option of edibles or pills. Like any medication though, remember to do your research and consult a professional to find out if medical marijuana treatment is right for your pain management.