Woodford Files: Happy New Year! On Medical Marijuana, Opioids, and Natural Health Product Protection

Whew, 2016 was one hell of a year!  In the realm of public health, the news wasn’t good. From rising rates of cancer and heart disease, to rampant deaths from opioid drug overdose, it became clear that modern medicine is failing to improve public health and may even be increasing mortality rates. And as the cold pharmaceutical approach to disease management continues to harm people, the public demand for alternatives grows stronger.

But as we learn in lawyer Shawn Buckley’s feature Natural Health Products Under Threat this month, government health authorities remain firmly committed to propping up the existing drug-based ‘health care’ system, even as people are suffering and dying because of it.  (To be sure, drugs and surgery are crucial for crisis intervention, and our doctors and hospitals are worthy of high praise in that regard. But this approach falls flat when treating chronic disease. In short, suppressing symptoms and cutting out body parts simply does not work to cure chronic illness. But I digress.)

Turning back to Shawn Buckley’s article: Instead of empowering citizens to take charge of their health with quality nutrition and integrative medicine, Health Canada is blatantly discriminating against natural health products, while defending the interests of big pharma. (This begs the question: Is there anything healthy about Health Canada?)

Buckley laments: “My dealings with Health Canada over the years have strengthened my belief that this government body is not there to protect us.”

His concern is that Health Canada is now pushing ahead with plans to change the regulatory structure such that natural health products become more vulnerable to recalls, fines, and drug-like testing protocols.He is urging the public to protect their freedom to choose healthy products by opposing this tampering with perfectly fine regulations. In fact there is currently a campaign underway, spearheaded by the Canadian Health Food Association, to protect access to natural health products and oppose government over-regulation. To sign their petition, see the letter created by CHFA, at the end of this column.

Also in this issue, for the first time ever we offer a story on the benefits of a controversial herb. Entitled: “Medical Marijuana Use Linked to Reduced Need for Prescription Medication,” the article points to a University of Georgia study that found a marked decline in prescription drug use among elderly and disabled patients in those U.S. states that have legalized marijuana. I find this interesting because it points to the potential use of marijuana as a tool for getting un-hooked from dangerous prescription drugs. This could not only save lives, but also save a fortune in health care costs. For example, here in Canada health experts have expressed grave concern about the overdoses and deaths caused by opioid pain killers like Percocet, OxyContin, morphine, heroin, and fentanyl (a drug that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine).

According to a report released by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, “In Ontario, where almost 670,000 people have been prescribed opioids for pain, there were 638 opioid-related deaths in 2013. Statistics for the first half of 2016 showed that this is an issue across the country: 370 people died in British Columbia from opioid overdoses, while in Alberta opioid overdoses killed 338 people.”

So I figure that if marijuana can help people get off of such lethal medications, it deserves to be legalized here, provided that it is restricted to those over 19 years of age (in users younger than 19 there’s a proven risk of damage to developing brains).  (Editor’s note: Not all marijuana plants are created equal. If you decide to use it, choose a brand that is not sprayed with toxic pesticides, such as the “Organigram” brand.)

Marijuana, of course, is only one of numerous natural medicines that have a valuable role to play in relieving pain, insomnia, and inflammation. For a great article on the subject, see our Book Review: Pain Relief Without Drugs.

As we look ahead into the new year, here’s a sneak preview of some of the features we have planned for our February 2017 issue:

• Busting the Cholesterol Myth: Why You Don’t Need Toxic Statin Drugs – by Dr. Zoltan Rona, MD
• Alternative Sweeteners (part II): A closer look at stevia, maple syrup, and more – by Pat Crocker
• The Microbiome as Mastermind of Your Body: How a mistreated microbiome messes with your gene expression – by Helke Ferrie

Happy new year to all our wonderful readers! Julia Woodford, Editor, Vitality Magazine

Letter submitted by Canadian Health Food Association:

Hi Julia,

Below we’ve crafted a letter that you can feel free to share with your readers. There wasn’t an actual petition that took place, rather we were asking people to provide feedback to Health Canada’s consultation on the proposed changes to the Natural Health Products Regulations. This consultation was open until October 24, and we’ve taken steps since then to continue our efforts to engage members and consumers alike.  I hope this clarifies.

Thank you for sharing your concern. We, too, at CHFA are dismayed at the proposed changes that Health Canada is suggesting in regards to the natural health product regulations. That’s why we carried out a responsive action plan in the last two months, known as our “Save our Supplements” campaign.

Steps we’ve taken so far included asking people to provide feedback to Health Canada’s consultation on the proposed changes to the Natural Health Products Regulations. This consultation was open until October 24. We also encouraged people to send letters to their MP through on our website, and by filling out postcards that could be found at participating CHFA member health food stores. Finally, several of our members have reached out to their local Members of Parliament to have meetings to continue to raise awareness about this issue within the House of Commons.

We encourage you to take similar action by doing the following:

1.     Send an online letter to your MP which acknowledges that your local MP has received a lot of feedback on the Self-Care consultation proposal, asks for an opportunity for a dialogue on the issues and suggests that you would be interested in meeting with them to discuss the issue.

2.     Consider meeting with your MP to share your story and how the proposed changes will affect you.

3.     Visit our website and our social channels to stay up to date on the issue and to use any of the resources that may be helpful to you.

Thanks again for your interest and support!


Julia Woodford founded Vitality Magazine in 1989, and has been its Editor-in-Chief for the past 30 years. Prior to a career in publishing, her studies included Political Economics at York University, Journalism at Ryerson University, and Psychology, PhysEd, and Anthropology at University of Toronto. She remains a lifelong student of herbalism, nutritional medicine, and the healing arts to this day. You can read her columns on the Vitality website. She is also the Show Manager for Whole Life Expo, Canada’s largest showcase of natural health and green living. Learn more at the Expo website In 2018 she received a “Hall of Fame” award from National Nutrition. In 2019, she was nominated for a “Person of the Year” award by National Nutrition.

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