Sorting weed from chaff
Next was a presentation in which Sholmes had special interest, as it was about cannabis. Not that he was an active user. Not since his student days, and even then he never inhaled . The fascinating thing about cannabis was the way governments around the globe had gone from treating it for very long as a dangerous narcotic – possession of which could mean even death penalties in some countries- to abruptly okaying it for medical use in recent years.
The funny thing about most narcotics was that many of them had medical uses too and even funnier was the fact that many modern medicines had plenty of very addictive, narcotic-like properties. The lines dividing medicine, narcotic, poison were quite thin indeed and very dependent on dosage, context, purpose of use.
The presentation was about the medicines regulation framework used to regulate importation, cultivation and manufacture of cannabinoids, used in the food industry or for medical purposes in Australia.
Given the limited and variable evidence, bias in media reports, and the lack of clinical guidelines or product information, there was a critical need for evidence-based advice for prescribers and consumers. An insufficient level of scientific literacy contributed to public distrust. Advocates, pre-clinical researchers and the emerging industry had complained of governments over regulating the supply of these products leading to poor access.
The study found that the existing scheme regulating use of cannabinoids was quite adequate and worked as intended. Tensions however remain, as prescriber and consumer knowledge and expectations in using these unregistered medicines with limited benefits continues to require further information resources and management of perceptions of access barriers.
For no particular reason as they left the room for the lunch break Sholmes felt a bit lighter in the head. All this discussion of weed and its extracts seemed to have had a placebo effect on him. He smiled to himself and thought, irrespective of doctors’ advice about maintaining good health, most humans always prioritized happiness – the pursuit of which was not always good for one’s health. And what better compromise was possible between the two than to get the doctor to prescribe weed as medicine?
The conference concludes
“We learnt that knowledge and education contribute to empowerment, but require creative processes of learning and engagement. So we are recommending that effective strategies, such as were shared here, are more widely used in all levels of training and education. Effective communication also contributes to empowerment, but requires more listening, respect and emancipatory approaches. ” said the doctor.
“Is that a challenge for the RUM movement itself?” asked WhatsUp.
“Yes, absolutely! We as a community of RUM researchers, health professionals, educators and activists need to internalize what we have learnt about empowerment. So we have made some recommendations for ourselves. We need a new language that reflects a contemporary culture for improving the use of medicines that is holistic, person and community centred. We need to listen more to people with respect. This will enable us to collaborate more truly and more broadly than we presently do. “
We have come to believe that it is critical for civil society to work with governments, and to hold them to account. Governments have a mandate to govern and protect populations from adverse situations. Policy, programs and monitoring are essential to provide a safe and conducive environment for medicines access and use.”
“Very well. So what is there on the ‘what we don’t know’ front?” asked Whatsup.
“Plenty. Let me rattle a few off in the form of questions”, enthused the doctor.
Why is there so little political will and public resources for promoting RUM? What are the diverse ways to move when governments do not lead?
Existing tools are limited in helping us. So how do we create a base of reliable information and tools for decision-making by societies, governments, health professionals, patients, people and communities?
How do we stimulate true multidisciplinary collaboration? How do we learn to act collectively, with respect and with full awareness of power relations?
How do we overcome the limits of our methods to be able to, for example, design local solutions, understand sustainability and assess the impact on RUM of non-Ministry of Health policies such as finance, trade, education, agriculture, human resources.
How does new language emerge that reflects a contemporary culture for health and improving medicines use that is more holistic, person-centred and community-centred?
All this and more needs figuring out, she laughed!
“That’s a lot of hard work ahead!” exclaimed WhatsUp.
“Yes, of course. ISIUM will nurture a community of practice to support development of people’s interests and capacities, sharing and collaboration. We will also organize a conference every 2- 3 years to continue the overwhelming enthusiasm and joy people found in coming together here these last few days. We will support the momentum form this meeting by establishing a secretariat and perhaps some other infrastructure to support the organic growth of ISIUM.
“Wishing you all the best with all this and the future of ISIUM” said Whatsup as he and Sholmes thanked the doctor for her time and help.
To be continued…