After seeing an increase of patients in his Hamilton-area emergency room who have consumed too much cannabis, one doctor hopes an education program can prevent future issues.
New users have been going to the hospital in increased numbers as legalization approaches across Canada in October.
Dr. Ira Price has been a leader in medical application of cannabinoids, and opened the first cannabis health clinic in Ontario in 2010. Since then, he has continued to call for a responsible approach to cannabis use.
“It takes up three to four hours in the emergency department for things that certainly could be avoided with proper education,” said Dr. Price. “If we can avoid having patients presented to the emergency department by very simple fixes, which is have an understanding of dosage — it frees up space, it frees up beds.”
So in response, Dr. Price is developing K.A.R.E (Kannabis Accreditation, Regulation and Education) to help new users and those in the cannabis industry better understand the specifics of dosing cannabis.
It details the differences in products — like flower, concentrates and edibles — along with providing some history about cannabis, growing tips and other facts about the plant.
“That’s who needs to take these courses — the people that work in the dispensaries and that work in the cannabis industry. Even if they are not medical practitioners, they still have to have an understanding of dosing and some of the science and history of cannabis.”
At the moment, Dr. Price feels there’s just too much different information from different sources.
“You walk into a dispensary, or you go up to your friend and you start talking about cannabis, they all seem to know answers and they’re all very different. I call it bro science. So I’m like, there needs to be a standardized knowledge.”
He is partnering with Cannabliss Retreats, a series of sessions that usually happen in California where users and professionals can talk about cannabis, learn new things, and hold workshops.
As part of an upcoming retreat over the Labour Day weekend in Ontario, Dr. Price will be there to talk the K.A.R.E program.
“So together we have this holistic approach to understanding medical cannabis. And we understand it basically bridges the gap between medicine and the lifestyle world and what we call mindful consumption,” said Dr. Price. “So that everyone has an understanding of what they’re putting into their body and that they can be safe about it and they can effectively use it towards their wellness.”
While edibles will not be allowed in stores right off the bat on October 17th, there’s still a wide variety of products — some that are very potent even for experienced users.
With the prospect of someone taking too much of a high-potency concentrate like shatter and having a bad experience, there’s also some criticism about legalization and worries about it causing problems.
But Dr. Price says instead of trying to deter people from cannabis, proper use needs to be stressed.
“You can’t just do that, and then expect poeople not to use it. So you have to provide them a safe and effective way and methods of usage so they can avoid things like greening out.”
No matter what, new users of cannabis do need to be cautious. You can never take too little, but it’s always easy to take too much. The effects of cannabis are wide-ranging and are different for every person, so by doing a bit of research about what you are consuming then you’re at a much lower risk of having a bad experience and being turned off from cannabis forever.
“We know like any drug in the world, or any herb in the world, or any plant in the world, there can always be side effects to these things,” said Dr. Price. “So that what we need to do is we have to have an understanding of how to use it properly.”