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Dr. Mark Ware’s name has been popular around cannabis circles for decades, thanks to the physician’s groundbreaking research on how cannabis fights chronic pain. He has led studies on pain and cannabis, and also embarked on a massive study in 2015 on the safety of cannabis for chronic-pain patients. He is also an associate professor of family medicine and anesthesia at McGill University, and served for 10 years as executive director of the non-profit Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids (CCIC).

In 2016, he was nominated as vice-chair of a federal task force that provided guidance to the Canadian government as it prepared to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana.

It only makes sense that Dr. Ware would dip his feet deeper into cannabis research, which he has done since taking the role of chief medical officer at licensed producer Canopy Growth. “Bringing Dr. Mark Ware into a senior position within Canopy Growth demonstrates our commitment to building a well-funded, carefully refined global clinical research plan to develop new evidence, markets and products as it related to cannabis," said Bruce Linton, former Chairman & CEO of Canopy Growth, in a press release.1

One of the more intriguing studies that the cannabis community will see progress inthe coming years revolves around Canopy Growth studying how cannabis affects athletes. The company announced a partnership with the National Hockey League Alumni Association (NHLAA), to research CBD for dealing with head injuries and mental health conditions. The clinical research partnership sets out to look at the efficacy of cannabinoids as a potential treatment for post-concussion neurological diseases in former league players.2 

To find out more from Dr. Ware, we recently caught up with him to check in with one of the world’s most renowned cannabis researchers.

We’ve heard in various studies that cannabis can be effective for managing chronic pain, but not acute pain. Is that true?

The work being done with cannabinoids such as THC focus on chronic pain conditions, probably because the body can up regulate cannabinoid resistors, and we are more likely to have pain pushing up on those receptors. Other studies that look at acute pain have not shown the efficacy of cannabis and sometimes cannabis actually makes the patient feel pain more, and makes them more aware of it.

Why did you decide to take a leave of absence from McGill to join Canopy as their Chief Medical Officer?

I’ve been involved in the cannabis research space for 20 years and have seen many companies come and go and have seen this industry really start from the bottom up. Once I finished with the task force I was looking around at where the credible research players are and it was clear to me that I have gone as far as I could with clinical trials. As the industry evolves, there is potential for doing more research with drugs taken to market and I did some consulting work for an incubator team and I enjoyed working with Canopy Health Innovations, a subsidiary of Canopy Growth that is now part of the company. When I was approached about the chief medical officer position, it seemed like the right fit for me.

CBD hype is everywhere, but can you explain how it actually helps people? For the average Canadian, it can be hard to parse fact from fiction.

CBD is a fascinating compound. The challenge is that so much of what we know about CBD is from pre-clinical literature, with studies on animals or cell cultures, and it can do remarkable things like work as anti-anxiety or anti-inflammation medication. But the challenge is translating that research into human trials. I’m seeing how CBD products are popping up everywhere but these products are not well regulated and consumers may not have a lot of confidence in what it does. In the absence of regulations, many things are being claimed about CBD, which is not backed up by evidence whatsoever. The one exception is epilepsy where clinical trials in the U.S. provided people with CBD and researchers found it could be effective for pediatric epilepsy. At Canopy, CBD is definitely on our radar as a compound that deserves careful and thorough research. 

  1. "Dr. Mark Ware Joins Canopy Growth Corporation as Chief Medical Officer." https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/dr-mark-ware-joins-canopy-growth-corporation-as-chief-medical-officer-683849601.html
  2. "NHL Alumni Association Teams Up With Canopy Growth to Research Concussions and Cannabinoids." https://www.canopygrowth.com/investors/news-releases/nhl-alumni-association-teams-up-with-canopy/

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