Welcome to CCIC 2.0! A lot has changed in the last year on the cannabis landscape in Canada, and here at the CCIC we have also undergone some significant changes.
At the conclusion of the 5th Annual CCIC Congress in April 2018, the long standing Executive Director of the CCIC, Dr. Mark Ware, announced that he was stepping down from his role and that I was coming in as new ED. For those of you who don’t know me or my background, while I am a research scientist and not a physician (as Mark is), I have been heavily involved in cannabinoid research for almost two decades and have been a member of the Board of Directors of the CCIC since it registered as a non-profit organization in 2007. While my background and training are very different from Marks, I do share the vision he built the CCIC up with that it should be an unbiased source of valid scientific and medical information and education around cannabis and its impacts on health and disease.
In the time since I took over for Mark in mid-2018 a lot has happened on the cannabis landscape. Shortly after I assumed the reins of the CCIC, the federal legalization of cannabis became official in Canada. In this new era, there was now a growing attention to the need to understand the impact of non-medical or recreational cannabis use on health and disease. As such, the mandate for the needs surrounding cannabis research and education broadened to include both medical and non-medical cannabis.
The legalization of cannabis has opened the doors to research and education in ways that were not possible under the previous prohibition model…
To meet this changing landscape, in my new role as the ED for the CCIC I have also broadened the mandate of our organization to become the hub for all research and education regarding cannabis in Canada. As part of this new mandate, I have added to the structure of the CCIC by developing a node-network system across Canada to provide a framework for the integration of cannabis and cannabinoid researchers across the country. The legalization of cannabis has opened the doors to research and education in ways that were not possible under the previous prohibition model, and so integrating the research efforts in the country and having a clear understanding of what areas of research are being focused on and what requires more attention is a clear necessity as we move forward.
We have also recognized the increased need and demand for balanced and evidence based education surrounding cannabis, and so have also developed a new hub on our website to link to well researched and widely accepted documents regarding what is known about the science of cannabis and its impacts on health, disease and society.
As many of you may who have attended the CCIC congress for several years, you will have noticed that this meeting has always had an evolving format. The first inception of the congress was a one day meeting that functioned to provide a general overview of what we knew about cannabis, the process of accessing medical cannabis in Canada and where the evidence stood on therapeutic uses of cannabis.
Over the following years, the meeting developed into a two day event and began expanding to include research talks and increased focus on the biology of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. The 2018 congress marked an interesting development as well, as this meeting included representation from a number of stakeholder organizations as well as a strong public health presence. For 2019, I have decided to make the congress an unofficial “cannabis boot camp”. The rationale for this was that we were now in a new era of cannabis research and it had become increasingly apparent in the lead up to legalization that there were significant knowledge gaps in the basic biology of cannabis, the health effects associated with recreational use and the public health considerations of legalization among health care practitioners in Canada.
Given that there is a somewhat alarming paucity of any cannabis education in any medical curricula in Canada, nor many sources of clearly unbiased and balanced evidence based education, I felt the CCIC congress would be an ideal venue to do an in depth crash course on all things cannabis, recruiting the knowledge base of leading cannabis and cannabinoid researchers in Canada and the USA. While I kept the two day structure that had been in place for the last few years of the CCIC congress, I formalized the structure of these two days to explicitly be divided into four key areas:
- Basics and biology of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system;
- Non-medical (or recreational) cannabis use and dependence;
- Medical cannabis;
- Epidemiology and public health impacts of cannabis in Canada
Moving forward, this four part structure will be maintained for the congress, but in future we hope to highlight ongoing and up to date research emerging from Canada that fits into these four categories to keep the medical and scientific community in Canada abreast of what is new and novel in cannabis research.