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CMA bolsters anti-marijuana stance

Two resolutions aimed at strengthening the Canadian Medical Association’s position against the use of marijuana for medical purposes – especially smoking marijuana – were endorsed by delegates attending General Council.

Delegates voted 66% in favour of a resolution put forward by outgoing president Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti and new president Dr. Chris Simpson stating the CMA opposes the smoking of any plant material.
Another resolution urging a comprehensive regulatory standard for authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes was also endorsed.

Francescutti said there is evidence that smoking marijuana exposes people to many toxic chemicals in stronger concentrations than those found in tobacco, and noted that endorsement of the motion would strengthen the CMA position calling for more research on the health benefits of marijuana for medical purposes.

Ashley Miller, a medical resident from Newfoundland opposed, the “prohibitionist notion and tone” of the resolution and said it would be more productive for the CMA to work on harm reduction strategies.
One of the only other significant differences of opinion between delegates came when a resolution from Quebec delegates was rejected. It called for the CMA to urge governments to adopt a system of presumed consent for organ and tissue donation.

Quebec medical student Claudie Dandurand-Bolduc, who brought the resolution forward, said the concept has been adopted in other countries such as France and Switzerland and would help improve the availability of organs for transplantation.

However, members of the CMA ethics committee noted that the committee had earlier discussed this concept and felt explicit consent was more in keeping with societal values.

Dr. Ted Boadway, who chaired a citizens’ panel on organ donation in Ontario, said the majority of people favoured explicit consent — as did emergency room physicians.

“The people of Ontario did not want us to presume anything,” he said.

Dr. John Sampson, of Prince Edward Island, said “as an emergency room physician I speak against this motion because in practice I’ll probably ignore it. Instead I will listen to what the patients and families have to say, and go with that.”

One other resolution that generated significant debate among delegates came from British Columbia. It calls for the CMA to produce policy recommendations asking that physicians and provincial and territorial medical associations be involved in the development of credentialing and granting privileges to physicians.

The motion was ultimately adopted, but not before many Ontario physicians voiced significant concerns that having a national policy might hamper the work of the Ontario Medical Association in dealing with these issues in that province.

As is always the case, General Council adopted resolutions on a wide range of other subjects, both through debate on the floor and using the consent resolution process. These included:

educating physicians about the prevalence of child abuse

  • encouraging directors of all medical trainee programs to provide early training in cultural awareness
  • supporting targeted population health programs aimed at improving food security
  • banning the use of e-cigarettes wherever the smoking of tobacco is prohibited
  • developing educational materials for students who are considering medical school outside of Canada
  • phasing out coal-fired electricity generation within 10 years
  • providing accessible high-quality care for transgender patients

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