Legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada: how does it affect massage therapy?

Since 2001, Canadians have been able to use marijuana for medical purposes with a prescription.

This summer, possibly as early as July 1, 2018 and probably by September, 2018, Canadians will also be able legally to buy marijuana for recreational (non-medical) use.

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What does this change for massage therapists, or massage clients?

Under current regulations, an RTM should not treat a client who can’t give true informed consent because of their use of medication or any type of substance.

Once marijuana is legal for recreational use, the same standards will apply, for the client’s protection.

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What is informed consent?

Already, the Standards of Practice for massage therapists in Ontario require RMTs to get informed consent to treatment from a client at each visit.

And according to the Health Care Consent Act, 1996, a client can only give informed consent if they have the mental capacity to do so. Some drugs (including prescription drugs) or substances may affect the client’s ability to give consent.

  • If the client seems unable to understand the possible risks and benefits of treatment or of not having treatment, or isn’t able to respond appropriately to questions, then for the client’s safety the massage therapist must assume that the client cannot give informed consent at this time and the therapist should not go ahead with the treatment.

A drug or substance can also impair the client’s ability to perceive pain and pressure levels accurately, or to tolerate and recover from treatment.

  • If the RMT believes that is the case, they should adjust their application of  assessment and treatment to protect the client.

For example, if you’ve taken a muscle relaxant or a pain medication an hour or two before your massage, you may not be able fully to feel the sensations in the area being treated, so your RMT will want to use a lighter touch and not work as deeply, to protect you from injury. Marijuana may affect a person in a similar way, so RMTs will exercise professional caution in treatment.

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Can I get a massage if I’ve taken a prescription or recreational substance?

Ontario massage therapy regulations say that an RMT should not treat a client who can’t give true informed consent because of the use of medication or any type of substance.

Also, the therapist should modify both assessment and treatment if the client’s awareness of pressure or pain may be diminished.

Once marijuana is legal for recreational use, the same standards will apply.

So it’s best to schedule your massage for a time when your pain perception and ability to give full consent to the treatment are at their most accurate.

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If you have questions, feel free to chat with your RMT at your next visit!

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