Limited medical marijuana prescriptions in Quebec

The Quebec College of Physicians says it won't be handing out prescriptions for medical marijuana just yet.

The professional order has released a set of guidelines for its members as new federal regulations kick in today.

Health Canada will no longer be in charge of the authorization of medical marijuana whether it be to grow it or consume it. Only authorized producers can hand out the medical marijuana to patients who have a prescription and that's where doctors come in.

The college stresses that medical marijuana is not a recognized treatment and has to be prescribed as such - through research programs. Patients will have to sign consent forms and doctors will keep a register of patients, resulting in an eventual database to monitor patients and their condition.

The catch is that the research framework will only be set up this summer. In the meantime, doctors can prescribe alternative medication to smoking dried marijuana.

"It's this kind of addiction that will make some patients less at ease but on medical grounds, it will not make a big difference,"  said college secretary Dr. Yves Robert.

Robert said the guidelines are necessary because of the grey legal and medical zones since there have been no precedents or solid scientific studies regarding the issue, adding that doctors won't be obligated to fill out such prescriptions.

"It's clear in our mind it's a way for the federal government to get rid of this situation on the shoulders of physicians," Robert said.

The Medical Cannabis Access Society says it's concerned that the list of illnesses and indications doctors should consider before writing out a prescription is more restrictive than the one under Health Canada. Robert said that list may be expanded once the program gets underway.

The list under the college's guidelines includes patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and spinal cord disease with severe pain and muscle spasms; and cancer or AIDS/HIV patients with severe pain, cachexia, anorexia, weight loss and severe nausea.

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