This is the first portion of a lightly edited transcript of remarks on Palliative Care I delivered at The Westin Bayshore on July 10, 2016 in Vancouver, B.C. as part of the Cannabis Hemp Conference.
Good morning! Real honored to be here with all of you today. Vancouver is where I got a lot of my first exposures to some of the serious health and human rights issues around cannabis and its
access. And I just I want to tell you that it was 11 years ago I came here and started seeing patients who were fleeing from the United States because various state programs wouldn't authorize or allow them to use cannabis medicinally, and patients fled across the border here to Canada to try to find
asylum protections from the Canadian system and unfortunately those protections weren't there. And I saw really sick patients including ones with multiple spinal cord injuries, multiple surgeries, taken from emergency rooms and dragged into the criminal justice system in Washington state where I live, and I just couldn't believe what I was seeing.
And at the same time I saw a tremendous movement here in the Vancouver, British Columbia area to recognize that human rights and health essential side of cannabis, but people who were powerless to stop their governments from hurting people in the process. I saw that with Michelle Rainey as well who had severe Crohn's disease and ultimately succumbed from cancer. And I was doing all this while I was a student at the University of Washington, and I was given a global health pathway certification, and I used my patient experiences around international cross border issues around medical cannabis and patients who were denied organ transplantation because of positive cannabinoid tests in their urine and who later died. I used those cases to talk about this as an international human rights crisis, so Vancouver has been a big part of my understanding of these issues across the border. So it is just a real pleasure to be here and talk to you about that.
Palliative care is now my specialization, and I wanted to say something about this field of medicine, and the special urgency that it calls for in terms of national and international regulations.
Palliative care is itself a hugely needed movement in the world. More than 60% of people in the world don't have access to palliative care. That's an estimate that the WHO estimates of people who have died who could have benefited from palliative care. Because, the field, though it's not strictly focused on people who are at the end of life, certainly some of the most intense palliative care happens, for patients, at the end of life. Palliation of severe symptoms. And it's a holistic field that focuses on psychological, spiritual, social issues including medical palliation. And the use of palliative care has been coming up in multiple countries, but there's still many, many policy restrictions that make it hard to access the essential medicines that we need to do effective palliation. And I've been working with an organization, the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care, and we've started to raise issues around cannabis as we also discuss issues of access to opium and morphine. Because both medicines are, my understanding, are essential, and both are stuck in horribly complicated drug monopolies and international control treaties that make it hard for people who really need these
medicines when they need them to get access to them.