Health Canada plans to treat marijuana like other medicines

A proposal released by Health Canada would effectively commercialize its production and distribution.

Individuals would no longer be permitted to grow their own

Regulations proposed by Health Canada would essentially create licensed grow-ops that people could shop at, provided they have a prescription from their doctor.

A proposal released by Health Canada would treat medical marijuana more like medicine and effectively commercialize its production and distribution.

"Current medical marijuana regulations have left the system open to abuse," Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq stated in a press release on Sunday.

She said the proposed Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) would help control illegal activity, while also allowing easier access for those patients who have genuine medical needs.

In order to be approved for a license, producers must:

  • Employ a quality assurance person with appropriate training, experience and knowledge.
  • Have an indoor production site (not in a private residence).
  • Have restricted access to their production site.
  • Have a 24/7 camera security system and alarm system.
  • Hold valid security clearance, authorized by the Minister of Health.
  • Provide notification of their application and details about their site to local police, fire and government officials.

"These changes strike the right balance between patient access and public safety," she said

Essentially, the new system will create licensed grow-ops that people could shop at, provided they have a prescription from their doctor. The regulations would allow for a regulated commercial market of licensed producers.

Currently, those who wish to use medical marijuana must apply for a permit from the government in order to either grow it themselves or buy it from a single government grower.

Adam Greenblatt, executive director of the Montreal-based Medical Cannabis Society (MCAS), said his organization advised Health Canada on the new regulations last summer.

"Unfortunately, they didn't take all of our counsel, which would have resulted in a far more patient-friendly regime," he stated.

'For many patients who grow their own [marijuana], this is one step forward and two steps back'—Adam Greenblatt, Medical Cannabis Society

Among its proposals, the MMPR suggests the price of medical marijuana should rise to $8.80 per gram. It currently ranges from $1.80 to $5 per gram.

The regulation also says it would no longer permit individuals to grow their own marijuana, a move that Greenblatt says is unfair.

"For many patients who grow their own, this is one step forward and two steps back," he said.

Despite some issues, Greenblatt remained optimistic. He said the merging of a social justice movement with the commercial sector will undoubtedly be a "bumpy ride."

"Creating a commercial marketplace is ostensibly progressive," he added.

Highlights from the proposed regulations:

  • Elimination of production of marijuana by individuals in their homes.
  • An end to Health Canada's role in authorizing the production, possession, supplying and distributing of marijuana.
  • Establishment of a regulated commercial market for licensed producers.
  • Patients would no longer be required to apply to Health Canada and submit their personal medical information to the government.
  • Patients would obtain a medical document (similar to a prescription) and purchase marijuana directly from the producer.
  • Individuals would not be required to consult a specialist in addition to their normal health care practitioner.

The proposed regulations are expected to come into force in the spring.

Details of the new regulations will be available on Health Canada's website and the public can weigh in during a 75-day comment period, which ends on Feb. 28, 2013.

With files from the Canadian Press