TORONTO: Here are some facts about cannabis for medical use, which is generating increasingly widespread health claims, despite what experts call a lack of supportive scientific evidence:
_ Medicinal cannabis has been legal in Canada under certain conditions since 2001. By the end of March, almost 297,000 Canadians had registered to purchase medical marijuana from licensed producers, representing a more than 20-fold jump since 2014.
_ Health claims are not permitted for any products sold under the Cannabis Act. Health Canada says a licensed producer who wishes to make a health claim in relation to a product must seek approval under the Food and Drugs Act.
_ Only two approved cannabis-based drugs are sold in Canada: Sativex, an oral spray that contains the cannabinoids THC and CBD to treat some multiple sclerosis symptoms, and Cestamet (nabilone) for severe nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. Marinol, a capsule containing synthetic THC for the treatment of AIDS-related anorexia and chemo-induced nausea and vomiting, was withdrawn from the market by its manufacturer.
_ More than 200 cannabinoid-based natural health products are authorized for sale in Canada, many of them made from hemp and required to contain less than 10 parts per million of THC. When the Cannabis Act legalizing recreational marijuana comes into force Oct. 17, natural health products will be allowed to contain certain parts of the cannabis plant, but with no more than 10 ppm THC.
_ Health Canada warns that cannabis in any form can pose a number of health risks. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid cannabis as it can harm a fetus or newborn. Chemical components in cannabis can affect brain function, including attention, memory and learning. Its use can have harmful neurological effects, especially in young people, whose brains are still developing until about age 25.