The Canadian and global cannabis discourse presents a unique social and knowledge challenge. A previously prohibited substance now available for medicinal use and soon to be available for recreational use. Multibillion dollar investments into growth, extraction, production as well as product design and marketing abound.
Faced with daily news, debates, marketing and digital information on the benefits and harmful effects of cannabis products, how do health professionals, industry and the public share this knowledge platform? Who are the knowledge practitioners in the cannabis space? How wide is the knowledge gap?
In the recent years, different stakeholder organizations and medical specialty groups have published position statements and guidance on cannabis, its therapeutic use and concomitant risks. One of the most consistent messages being the increased risk of psychosis with frequent, daily use of high potency strains on the developing brains of young people. Alongside other evidence-based information, medical cannabis is promoted for the treatment of insomnia, depression, anxiety disorders and PTSD. Outside psychiatry, the potential of cannabis products in pain, palliative care and seizure disorders have also received a lot of attention.
The evidence for medical and recreational use of cannabis, smoking, edibles and the effects of different cannabinoids needs considerably greater consistency and clarity. As clinicians engage with cannabis dialogues, what knowledge platform do they use....personal experience, prohibition memories, contemporary social science or genetic research or deep seated pro versus anti-cannabis bias?
Mental health professionals are well positioned to be knowledge synthesizers, translators and disseminators. Cannabis has increased that challenge.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.