If you’re looking for medical cannabis in Canada, it’s important to understand the legal framework around access. Canada’s medical marijuana laws are in flux right now, as the country moves toward the legalization of cannabis for recreational users as well.
Here’s what you need to know about the current legal framework.
An Updated Framework
Canada’s medical marijuana laws were introduced in 2001. The Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR) were replaced in 2013. The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) made some big changes. Most notably, under the MMPR, patients with medical marijuana authorization were no longer allowed to grow their own, as they’d been able to under MMAR. Instead, they had to buy from select producers who had licences.
In 2016, the MMPR were replaced by the Access to Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). This is the current framework in place for governing access to and use of medical cannabis. Under the ACMPR, patients can once again grow their own, although licensing has remained in place.
The federal government announced plans to make cannabis legal for recreational users beginning in 2018. While there’s still some confusion about how this will happen, the idea is to stop punishing and criminalizing the “average” user. The law will still punish those involved in trafficking and illegal grow-ops.
What will happen when cannabis becomes legal? The medical marijuana laws may need to change again to adjust to the new legal framework. So far, it seems the ACMPR is likely to remain in place, however, and Health Canada will continue licensing producers.
One Likely Outcome
So far, one major problem may crop up with the legalization of cannabis. People who wish to use cannabis to treat a condition may no longer seek the medical advice of an expert. Instead, they’ll obtain cannabis for recreational purposes and begin self-medicating.
The system is likely to cause strain between those who have already been issued an authorization under current medical marijuana laws and people who haven’t yet obtained their authorization—and may not need to.
Retaining Licensing for Producers
One thing is clear: Health Canada intends to continue licensing producers of medical cannabis for the foreseeable future. The reason for this is to keep the supply of cannabis to a certain grade and quality. Health Canada wants consumers to know the product they’re purchasing meets strict standards and is safe for them to use. Unlicensed production could see the introduction of dangerous and unsafe products to the market.
Ontario has received some backlash for unveiling a plan to sell legal cannabis solely through its LCBO outlets and to purchase only from Health Canada-licensed producers.
Retaining Licensing for Patients
Some people seeking medical cannabis may still need to obtain a medical authorization. Under the proposed law, people may carry a certain amount of cannabis on them. Those found with more than this amount could be charged with trafficking. The idea is to separate the recreational user, who has cannabis for personal use, from those who are profiting from the sale of large amounts of cannabis on the black market.
For this reason, many patients may find they still need to receive an authorization to get access to the amount of cannabis they need. Having specific medical marijuana laws will allow people to obtain the correct amount to treat their illnesses, without running the risk of being charged.
An authorization under ACMPR will also allow patients to continue growing their own, especially if their production will exceed allowable limits for recreational users.
There are a number of kinks to be worked out of the new framework for cannabis in Canada. Medical marijuana laws may change as a result, so keep an eye on them and learn how they might affect you.