How safe is Medical marihuana ?

marihuana rx

Is Medical Marijuana Safe? Does anyone really know?

By Gary Askin


As of April this year, Canadians have a new way of accessing marijuana in Canada. The new regulations, can be found under the Health Canada website under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes (MMPR) regulations.

With Liberal leader Justin Trudeau calling for marijuana legalization and an anticipated 1.3 billion dollar a year (by 2024) pot industry about to explode,corporate executives are now eagerly rubbing their hands together and lining up to get into the legal pot business.

But with all the fuss and giddy anticipation one wonders; is medicinal marijuana actually safe to use? Did it pass through Health Canada’s time consuming, arduous approval process, as every other drug has to, before it is unleashed on Canadians? Have we conducted appropriate clinical trials? How about pharmacology, toxicology or micro biology testing?

This seemed like a simple question when I started my search at the Health Canada website.  I found three companies listed as licensed marijuana producers.

Cannimed Ltd, Mettrum Ltd and a group called the Peace Naturals Project which were  granted Health Canada’s approval to produce and sell marijuana to Canadians.

I checked their websites to see if they could assure me that their medical marijuana is safe for consumption. It’s interesting that Cannimed and the Peace Naturals websites, address marijuana safety in their FAQ section.  Unfortunately, neither will answer their own question. Both responses are eerily similar and discuss testing for ingredients and contaminants, and a recall process “in the unlikely event of a problem”.

Wait a minute, what? They don’t elaborate on what kind of problem they refer to.

Mettrum doesn’t have a FAQ page on their website but state they will be offering a marijuana product that will meet or exceed 17% levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC  which is the active ingredient that makes you high)

You heard that right. 17 %  THC.

If you’re my age the stuff they were passing around at the Flock of Seagulls concert in 1980, boasted a mind altering 1-2 % THC.

ted marihuana

This reminded me of the scene from the movie TED where Mark Wahlberg’s talking stuffed bear is telling him of new highly potent strain of pot called “This may be Permanent”, “They’re Coming They’re Coming” and one blend called “Gorilla Panic”

17 % thc in marihuana- is that safe?

I did not get an answer from the licensed producers whether or not this new high-powered, ultra potent, medicinal marijuana is safe to use. I went back to Health Canada to ask the  professionals. Surely the scientists who are tasked with our safety and health care needs and whose goal is to;

“Communicate information about disease prevention to protect Canadians from avoidable risks” and who’s mission is to provide Canadians with  “credible information and reliable advice”  

and can answer two simple questions pertaining to marijuana’s safety and approval process.

After 7 calls and an email to various divisions tasked with providing information on medical marijuana no one would or could answer my questions.

Each time I asked, I was directed to send an email asking the same questions.

No one would volunteer their last names and kept referring me back and forth from the MMPR program to the  Regulatory Project Management Division to the Consumer Product Safety Division.

Same answer “send an email”.

I did get a call back from Christine Leroux an employee of the Regulatory Project Management Division, who felt I should call Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch to get my answers.

I called them and asked the Health Canada employee;

“Did marijuana go through the same testing process as other approved drugs?”

His response “I’m not positive”

I asked “Is it safe to use?” I was told I would have to send an email as he could not comment on such an issue.

I replied  “If you work for Health Canada and can’t tell me if a drug is safe to use? Do you know who can?

“No comment”.

I never dreamed that two simple questions would be so difficult to answer by the persons entrusted to look after the health and safety of Canadians.

After a day of attempting to get answers on marijuana safety and approvals from our entrusted Health Canada officials, and  navigating throughout the massive Health Canada website, I stumbled upon a posting on the Health Canada website;

Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) is not an approved therapeutic product and the provision of this information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, or of cannabis generally, by Health Canada. Cannabis has not been authorized through the standard Health Canada drug approval process because the available scientific evidence does not establish the safety and efficacy of cannabis to the extent required by the Food and Drug Regulations for marketed drugs in Canada

There it was. The corporate messaging no one at Health Canada could give me.

It appears Health Canada doesn’t know if medical marijuana is safe (or effective).

This was a simple question. The answer was they just don’t know.

We have all heard stories of ground breaking medications being developed and used in other countries that Canadians can’t access as they haven’t been studied and approved.

Why is marihuana the exception and why did our government overlook all the protective rules and processes designed to ensure our safety, just to fast track this drug into our hands?

pot pharmacist

Health Canada has had its critics in the past. When it set up the initial Medical Marihuana Access program in 2000, it allowed prescribed users to grow pot in their own residences. The dangers of marihuana home grows have been well documented. Yet Health Canada allowed these potential fire hazards to exist throughout our country.

When requested by Waterloo Regional Police Chief Matt Torigian to identify these locations, to mitigate our community and EMS workers from potential explosions and or fires, Health Canada refused to divulge where they were located or even how many there were.

A follow up discussion with David Juurlink an MD, a clinical pharmacologist and drug safety researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences center in Toronto, about Health Canada’s decision to approve the addictive generic form of oxycodone stated:

“What little is known about how drugs are given the ok, would alarm Canadians dependent on them, and even the doctors prescribing them”

Health Canada never approved medical marijuana and yet with no scientific evidence of safety or efficacy, it’s available for use anyway.

When I pick up my cholesterol medication the pharmacist briefs me on dosages, contra-indications, how and when to take it and just in case Im not listening, he staples 3 more pages of information to my little pill bag.

Not the case with medical marihuana. With a prescription it will arrive on your door step. No briefing, no information on clinical trials or potential addiction. No idea what will happen when you consume it.

Unfortunately, if someone has an adverse medical reaction to the 17 % thc levels of our government sponsored marijuana ,it will not be because of a missed, miniscule detail or a small flaw in the system.

It will be because this is exactly how the system has been designed.


(ps  as of January 24/2014 Health Canada stills hasn’t returned my emails with an answer)

Gary Askin is a recently retired police officer who is now a licensed private investigator.

First Follower Leadership in Moneyball

There is a scene in the  Brad Pitt movie,  Moneyball where Billy Beane (Pitt)  is being offered a huge contract from Boston Red Socks owner John Henry. Henry is describing how Billy Beane revolutionized the game of baseball and demonstrated incredible success yet still faced intense criticism from his peers and  the media.

John Henry –“I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat and not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They will bet you’re crazy.”

I thought about this scene when my friend and part time super model, Kim Hodgson sent me this  video.

Titled “First Follower Leadership Lesson from Dancing Guy”  The video illustrates just how important the first guy through the wall is to the leadership dynamic.  Click on this link  and take a minute to see this video-


Here are some lessons from the Dancing Guy Vid;

1) Leaders must be easy to follow and embrace the first followers

2) First followers are under-appreciated- it takes guts to be a first .  The leader is nothing without his first follower.  One is the flint the other the spark.

4) It becomes about the followers not the leader

5) The  first followers must be seen because the new followers are following them -not the leader

6) This creates momentum and a movement.  Others can join the crowd without fear of riducule

7) Leadership is over glorified. Its the first follower that transforms the “nut” and creates the movement

Whether your a crazy dancing guy or Brad Pitt ,  Leaders of all types who are comfortable in their own skin, approachable and embrace their followers  -shouldn’t be afraid to assume some risks, look silly or venture into uncharted territory. Be prepared to get bumped and bruised along the way and remember- the leader doesn’t exist without the first follower.

– gary askin

New Jersey Devils Coach Peter Deboer teaches a cop a few things

Coaching our Staff for Success

by Waterloo Regional Police Service

Superintendent  Gary Askin



Have you ever wondered what makes a National Hockey League coach successful? Several years ago a friend of mine decided to find that out and spent a few days job shadowing an NHL coach. His purpose was to examine the coach’s leadership style and to determine what made him a successful coach. When he told me about his experience it struck me that our own community must be full of leaders that we can learn from.

Learning outside of formal police institutions and within our own community has many benefits. It meets our organizational goals and values as they pertain to staff development, partnerships, teamwork, and excellence, while injecting a police presence into the community.  I decided to put this into action.

Some say growth only occurs while operating outside your comfort zone, so with this in mind I decided to select a local leader with whom I’ve had no previous connection. I wanted to determine what challenges they faced, what leadership skills they utilized, and whether those skills were transferable to policing.

Before moving onto New Jersey, Peter Deboer was the coach of the Kitchener Rangers Ontario Hockey League team. Peter was one of the most successful coaches in the OHL and now ranks fifth in wins among all coaches. He has won the Memorial Cup, a gold medal with the Team Canada Juniors and has been named coach of the year twice. He is recognized as one of the OHL’s elite and is now coaching the Devils in the playoffs.

Armed with 200 interview-style questions and a digital recorder I met Peter at the Kitchener Rangers head office. From the moment I walked into his office Peter was gracious and receptive. We spent several hours talking about his career, motivation, development, and the challenges he has faced as a coach. Continue reading