THUNDER BAY – There are new rules coming for the use of medical marihuana in Canada. The rules include elimination of the growing of the drug at home for those currently allowed to do so. The Conservative government has announced the change as Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health stated that after a broad consultation process, the Government of Canada intends to make changes to the way Canadians access marihuana for medical purposes.
“Current medical marihuana regulations have left the system open to abuse,” said Minister Aglukkaq. “We have heard real concerns from law enforcement, fire officials, and municipalities about how people are hiding behind these rules to conduct illegal activity, and putting health and safety of Canadians at risk. These changes will make it far more difficult for people to game the system.”
In the past decade, Health Canada’s Marihuana Medical Access Program has grown exponentially, from under 500 authorized persons in 2002 to over 26,000 today. This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marihuana in their homes. The proposed new regulations will protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and their communities by eliminating the production of marihuana in homes.
The Government will no longer produce and distribute marihuana for medical purposes, opening up the market to companies which meet strict security requirements. Production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety.
The current Marihuana Medical Access Program costs Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars each year. The $5/gram Health Canada charges to program participants who choose to purchase from the department is heavily subsidized.
“An average of one in 22 grow operations (legal and illegal) catch fire, which is 24 times higher than the average home,” said Stephen Gamble, President of the Canadians Association of Fire Chiefs. “We applaud the Government of Canada for strengthening Health Canada’s regulations for marihuana for medical purposes to enhance the safety of Canada’s firefighters and the communities they protect.”
“Changes are necessary to reduce the risk of abuse and exploitation by criminal elements,” said Chief Constable Jim Chu. “We very much appreciate the collaborative relationship the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police enjoys with Health Canada and how they are responding to the unintended public safety impact through the proposed changes to the Marihuana Medical Access Program.”
In response to concerns from patients, the proposed new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations aim to treat marihuana as much as possible like any other narcotic used for medical purposes. Health care practitioners will be able to sign a medical document similar to a prescription, and then patients can purchase the appropriate amount from an authorized vendor. The new system would cut red tape for individuals and ensure that they have access to marihuana for medical purposes produced under quality controls while streamlining the process for applicants and health care practitioners.
“These changes strike the right balance between patient access and public safety,” said Minister Aglukkaq.
It is the Government’s intention to fully implement this new system by March 31, 2014 . On this date, all authorizations to possess and licences to produce issued under the current program would expire, and all individuals requiring marihuana for medical purposes would have to purchase it from licensed producers.
Details of the proposed new regulations are posted on our website. There will be a 75-day comment period and the Department will be receiving comments until February 28, 2013. Health Canada will keep all stakeholders informed as we continue to move through the regulatory process.