A few months ago I wrote an article covering a court case involving patients who’d consumed cannabis tainted with pesticides. The class-action lawsuit was appealed to the Supreme court, who rejected hearing the case. This was a big moment for medical cannabis, one I don’t think many people caught on to.
To start explaining the importance, we have to remember that medical cannabis reform in Canada was driven by legal challenges, not clinical trials. The courts decided that patients had a right to access medical cannabis in all forms. In coming to this decision, the courts failed to evaluate what evidence exists for defining a ‘patient’. As I mentioned in my previous article, GW Pharmaceutical has published clinical trials validating the use of medical cannabis for certain illnesses. Instead of evaluating the limited research and restricting which illnesses medical cannabis could be used to treat, they enabled a system to be created with little to no restrictions around the medicinal application of cannabis. So, when we see the Supreme Court deem the following as a reasonable reason to not hear a case, the irony should be obvious: “The Nova Scotia court had ruled that there wasn’t a workable methodology to determine that the proposed adverse health-effects claims have a common cause.“
Cannabis access to all medical patients was given despite no ‘workable methodology’, yet the same system can’t protect those same medical patients for the exact same reason. Cannabis companies have no obligation to determine the safety of their products, how will patients ever be able to put enough data together to provide a workable methodology if the cannabis products sold to them cause adverse side-effects? Government funded research is the only route in Canada that will allow for this type of data to be collected. Last year the Canadian Government announced they would provide $24 million in funding to various projects looking at the efficacy of cannabis and additional funding for awareness and potential abuse & addiction problems. The list of each project Canada has decided to fund when it comes to evaluating the safety and efficacy of cannabis can be found here. It looks like they’re only interested in funding one project at a time related to different efficacy or safety concerns. At this rate, it will take decades before patients have access to enough data that they might be able to defend a ‘workable methodology’ in court.
Why are these circomstnaces a big win for ‘Big Pharma’? The best way to explain is to use the opioid crisis as an example. I am in no way suggesting that cannabis or any cannabinoids will devastate society in the same way the opioid crisis has, I am using a well known event to draw parallels. Some of the lawsuits against companies responsible for the opioid crisis focus on aggressive marketing and misleading claims about the addictiveness of opiates. In order to market and sell various opioids, these companies had to conduct clinical trials to collect and present data to the FDA. One of the strategies used to take these companies to court was as follows (from the above link):
“The second strategy paints opioid companies’ business practices as deceptive. In these fraud claims, sometimes brought in connection with Medicaid claims or consumer protection laws, governments charge that companies made false representations about their products’ addictiveness and effectiveness, all calculated to mislead the state, prescribers, and the public. This argument proved powerful in suits against tobacco companies.”
A company’s collection of its own data was used against them. They knew their products were addictive because of the data they collected and were able to be held accountable for it. As I’ve mentioned with cannabis companies, they are under no obligation to collect data. The Canadian government will collect the data and slowly change cannabis regulations over time as the safety and efficacy of each cannabinoid and the cannabis plant as a whole is established. Cannabis companies simply have to comply with the regulations as they change. Until they change cannabis companies can sell any cannabinoid they can produce through medical or recreational channels with total impunity when it comes to the safety of each cannabinoid. There are over 150 cannabinoids found in cannabis, we’ve only studied a handful to any degree. In my last article on this topic I provide an example on cannabinoids that could be a safety issue using the potentially more psychoactive cannabinoid THCP.
This is a big win for ‘Big Pharma’ because some of the normal consumer protections they are subject to don’t exist when it comes to cannabis or any cannabinoid made by the plant. While companies operate within the bounds allowed by Health Canada, and sometimes not in those bounds when it comes to Organigram, consumers will have a hard time receiving compensation for any harm caused by cannabis products.
This analysis is in no way intended to be a recommendation to buy or sell any security or derivative. The author has no position in Organigram.