Treat The Herb Like a Herb

Activists should fight for the right to evaluate cannabis according to herbal standards, not pill standards

By David Malmo-Levine
6205844According to a recent article from the Huffington Post:

“Canada’s first medical marijuana clinical trial has been registered with Health Canada, a milestone that could be the first step toward legitimacy in the eyes of the medical community. The trial will measure the effects of marijuana on patients with osteoarthritis of the knee versus other patients who receive a placebo.”

Setting aside other interesting issues such as “smoking safety” (cannabis smoke is not tobacco smoke – not associated with cancer, brown lung or emphysema – and has advantages over orally-consumed cannabis and/or vaporized cannabis) and “dosing determined by clinical studies” (doctors seem to be in denial of self-dosing or “self titration” – probably because they have remained ignorant of the long history of smoked medicines such as cannabis and opium), the topic most worthy of discussion seems to be … why are these studies being done at all?

The “safety and efficacy” testing protocols were originally created as a result of problems with synthetic medicines (elixir of sulfanilamide and thalidomide), not as a result of any problems with herbal medicine.

Furthermore, there are Natural Health Products Regulations in Canada that allow for herbs to be approved as medicines without clinical trials:

“Evidence may include clinical trial data or references to published studies, journals, pharmacopoeias and traditional resources.”

See also:

Anyone looking for such published studies, journals, pharmacopoeias and traditional resources with regards to cannabis should have no trouble finding them – there are thousands of them. Here is a small sample of what is available:

Health Canada sets out criteria for what constitutes a Natural Health Product:

“Only safety risks that can be mitigated by advisory information such as warning statements or contraindications for mild to moderately harmful outcomes are acceptable for licensed Natural Health Products (NHPs). Serious or severe outcomes that only occur in a very limited and specific population and which can be clearly contraindicated on the product licence application form and product label are the exception to this rule. All other risks should be mitigated by appropriate conditions of use.”

Considering the fact that the major risks that come with cannabis use (impaired driving and impaired lungs) can be mitigated by simple advisory information such as “don’t drive while impaired” and “stick to high quality organic, not-moldy cannabis use during high-pleasure, low pressure activities, paying careful attention to dose, especially for first time users”, it seems that cannabis could quite easily qualify as an NHP.

Canadian cannabis activists are letting an important opportunity slip through their fingers – an opportunity to remind the world that cannabis is a herb – not a pill – and should be treated as such. Those members of the cannabis community with enough resources to hire a lawyer should mount a challenge to the clinical trial process, and force Health Canada to treat cannabis like any other Natural Health Product.

About The Author

David Malmo-Levine has been active in the Canadian pot community for over 20 years. He is a security consultant for the only real cannabis farmer’s markets on planet Earth (,, the author of chapter 3 of The Pot Book, the owner of the Herb Museum (, editor at Potshot magazine (, writer at Cannabis Culture Magazine ( and looking to one day open up a medical marijuana dispensary for healthy people (

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