The new rules will allow patients who have been authorized by their physician to use medicinal cannabis to grow a limited amount of marijuana for their personal use, or to designate someone else to grow it fore them, reports The Canadian Press.
The new rules are a response to the court decision earlier this year that found the ban on patients growing their own medicinal cannabis to be a violation of their constitutional rights. Health Canada said it is providing “an immediate solution” to the ruling, which ordered the federal government to make cannabis more accessible and affordable, report Gloria Galloway and Mike Hager at The Globe and Mail.
Under the new regime, which takes effect on August 24, patients who consume one dry gram a day — about the average prescription, according to Health Canada — will be allowed to grow two plants outdoors, or five plants indoors. Patients with two-gram prescriptions will be allowed four plants outdoors, or 10 indoors, and so on.
“The difference will be I can grow and control my own medicine,” Tammy Wade, a medical marijuana patient in Ottawa, told Toke Signals Friday afternoon.“I’ll know exactly what products are used, and I’ll take pride in the fact that I can do it myself.”
Wade, who has a three-gram-per-day prescription, said she was happy to finally be allowed to legally grow her own cannabis.
Health Canada officials on Thursday said the licensed home-growers covered by the injunctions may continue producing the number of plants they currently grow – because processing all of the country’s medical marijuana users under the new system would swamp government bureaucrats tasked with keeping up with all of it.
“We would only seek to lift the injunction once we are confident that we could actually process the applications from individuals who are covered,” said Jacqueline Bogden, assistant deputy minister for the department’s marijuana legalization and regulation branch.“Health Canada is confident that these new regulations provide reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes and address the issues identified by the federal court,” Bogden said.
The new regulations, which replace the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations, will be taken into account by the federal task force tasked to write recommendations on how to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis use, according to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. The recreational marijuana rules are set to be unveiled next spring, by which time the Liberals say they’ll have legalized recreational cannabis.
Under the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations unveiled Thursday by Health Canada, authorized patients will be able to grow a specific number of plants based on their prescriptions, and whether they are growing the plants indoors or outdoors. Indoors, patients will be able to grow five plants per gram of dried product, and two plants per gram outdoors.
Canada’s 34 licensed mail-order suppliers, who serve some 70,000 patients, will be the only legal source for cannabis plants and seeds under the new rules. Patients who grow marijuana for themselves will be allowed to grow for only one other person.Canadian cannabis companies are already looking at ways to take advantage of the new rules. Canopy Growth announced it will help customers grow pot at its company-owned facilities; meanwhile, Aurora Cannabis Inc. plans to provide kits to help people grow at home.
“We’ve always supported home-grow,” said Cam Battley, senior vice-president at Aurora, reports Peter Koven at the Financial Post. “We’re all in favor of increasing access (to medical marijuana).”
“I think it is a very good thing that that have done,” said Jon Liedtke, co-owner of Higher Limits, a vaping lunge in Windsor, Ontario, reports CBC News. “Expanding access to medical marijuana, ensuring that there is affordable, consistent supply to quality medical marijuana, is of the utmost importance and what these regulations will do is ensure that medical marijuana users have that access.”
Growing marijuana at home had been the norm for Canadian patients until 2014, when Health Canada introduced rules, under the Conservative Harper government, requiring them to buy their medical cannabis from licensed producers.
The Federal Court case that prompted the changes was launched by four patients in British Columbia who challenged the constitutionality of the former Conservative government’s 2014 overhaul of the medical marijuana system, maintaining that the commercial product was too expensive for them.
Health Canada was given six months to come up with new rules after the Allard v. Canada decision earlier this year. “It is highly unlikely that Ottawa wanted to go down this path, as it will make the sector much tougher to regulate,” wrote Koven.“However, it had no choice.”
“I am very pleased that my well-earned pessimism and cynicism about the government’s medical cannabis actions have proven to be wrong with the new Liberal government,” said Kirk Tousaw, the Nanaimo-based attorney who helped win the case. He called the Liberal plan a “robust response” to the court decision.
Health Canada also reiterated it is completely opposed to what it called “illegal dispensaries,” which continue to operate despite a recent police crackdown in Toronto.
“Health Canada will also continue to support law enforcement representatives by providing a dedicated phone line that is accessible 24 hours a day and seven days a week to confirm, when necessary, that specific individuals are authorized to possess or produce a limited amount of cannabis for medical purposes,” the agency announced on Thursday in a prepared statement.
Canadian pharmacies are heavily lobbying to take control of medical marijuana distribution. The Canadian Pharmacists Association said it is “disappointed” that the government missed an “important opportunity to improve patient access and safety” by not allowing its members to manage and dispense medical marijuana – although it is “encouraged” that Health Canada is considering that as a potential option.
Health Canada granted that it is “continuing to study” that idea, but didn’t give any specifics.