Following months of unsuccessful attempts to obtain consensus from the Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association (CMCIA) on a Code of Ethics to govern the medical cannabis industry, Tilray, one of Canada's leading licensed producers (LP) of medical cannabis, has terminated its relationship with CMCIA and will spearhead the establishment of the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC). The new association will represent licensed producers and other stakeholders who are committed to building long-term trust with patients by ensuring the highest standards of ethical behaviour across the entire medical cannabis supply chain, including the interactions between licensed producers and physicians.
"We are tremendously disappointed to end our relationship with CMCIA but we have lost confidence in the association's ability to effectively define and enforce standards of behaviour for our industry," says Tilray CEO Greg Engel. "By failing to adopt a Code of Ethics that mandates a verifiable commitment to safety, transparency and avoidance of conflicts of interest, CMCIA is failing to serve the best interests of Canada's medical cannabis patients."
In the absence of effective industry self-regulation by CMCIA, many licensed producers are currently engaging in a practice of paying kick-backs whereby physicians are either directly or indirectly compensated for issuing medical documents and/or referring patients. The practice of providing physicians with financial incentives for these activities not only represents a violation of the professional standards by which physicians must abide, but also brings the entire Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) regime and its patients into disrepute. The practice of accepting kickbacks is expressly prohibited by provincial Colleges of Physicians.
"Our objective is to produce the highest quality product and support efforts that enable the patient and their physician alone to make an informed choice on the best medical cannabis strain for their individual medical need," says Engel. "Tilray has never and will never compensate a physician for a referral or for writing a prescription for medical cannabis. We believe patients are best served when treatment choices are made without financial influence or incentive."
According to Engel, the newly-formed Canadian Medical Cannabis Council reflects a long-term, resolute commitment and accountability to patients. The association's Code of Ethics is based on six fundamental and non-negotiable principles: integrity, safety, quality, access, security and research.
CMCC, which will be based in Toronto, has invited all licensed producers to be members as long as they agree to abide by the group's Code of Ethics. While the group is searching for an independent executive director, Philippe Lucas, Tilray's Vice President of Patient Research and Services, will serve as interim executive director.
"We believe our industry must recognize that a commitment to ethics and the highest standards of safety, transparency and research is the only viable way to build patient trust and establish our industry as a legitimate contributor to Canada's healthcare system," explains Lucas. "We are hopeful that other licensed producers will realize this and join our effort."