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Cannabis researcher predicts Canada poised to become world leader

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Dozens of unlicensed marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver told to shut down today or face daily fines

'The hurdles associated with working with cannabis are related to its legal status,' says a UBC prof

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s deadline day for dozens of unlicensed pot dispensaries to shut down in Vancouver or face daily fines.

Many owners and their supporters are gathering at City Hall today for what they’re calling a peaceful protest. But it’s not all rallies and demonstrations in Vancouver’s muddled marijuana landscape.

The research community is looking forward to a much easier future with the pending legalization of pot, with some predicting Canada is poised to become a world leader in the study of cannabis.

“I think we are going to see an explosion in research in the coming five or 10 years,” says Zach Walsh, an associate professor of psychology at UBC who has studied possible therapeutic uses for marijuana.

“The hurdles associated with working with cannabis are related to its legal status. It’s scheduled in such a way that you need a whole bunch of Health Canada approvals to be able to store it and administer it,” he tells NEWS 1130.

Though Walsh says Health Canada has been quick to process and approve his applications when all the requirements are met, he believes the regulations have been much tighter than needed and looks forward to changes.

“If you have an ounce of cannabis, will you need to have a Level 5 safe bolted to the floor in a room that records the access of anyone coming in or out as if you are dealing with more dangerous drugs? I think that should change and I believe we will see a real increase in cannabis research,” he says.

Walsh says doctors are desperate for those studies as more Canadians consider cannabis for medical uses.

“Hopefully, we can find the funding and make a hospitable climate. I think Canada could be positioned to become a real world leader when it comes to cannabis research.”

Walsh predicts the stigma surrounding the medical use of marijuana will begin to disappear and that many patients using drugs for pain relief will look at other options.

“Even things like Aspirin and Tylenol have some pretty negative side effects when it comes to your stomach and your liver — there’s actually a lot of mortality associated with the long-term use of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories — so I think we are going see cannabis as a substitute for some of that acute pain management,” he explains.

“Hopefully, also for opiates. We’ve already seen some of that in the US. We know that Canada is having a real problem with opiate overdoses and the problems associated with opiate pain medication,” Walsh adds.

“I think there is a lot of opportunity for cannabis to become a medicine of first resort rather than a medicine of last resort.”