The Liberal government in Ottawa has announced revisions to the former Conservative administration’s system for medicinal marijuana.
It has replaced the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) with a new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
The big difference between the two is that the latter will permit authorized patients to grow their own medicinal marijuana or to designate someone else to grow it for them.
Most other provisions of the MMPR will remain in effect, including a requirement that says patients are only allowed to purchase prescribed cannabis from federally permitted producers via a mail-order system.
The new rules are schedule to come into force on August 24.
The change permits authorized patients to grow a “limited amount” of cannabis for medical needs. That is defined as ‘based on a formula that takes into account the individual’s daily dose…and the average yield of a plant under certain growing conditions’.
The announcement is in direct response to a February 24 decision of a Federal Court judge.
The Hon. Michael Phelan ruled that Canadians have a constitutional right to grow their own marijuana for medical purposes. He said the federal government must therefore revise MMPR provisions that prohibited patients from producing their own cannabis.
That case is known as the Allard decision, after Neil Allard, one of the four B.C. plaintiffs and a resident of Nanaimo.
In court appearances, federal prosecutors argued that allowing patients to grow cannabis on their private properties would expose the public to security and fire risks, and also allow marijuana to be diverted to criminal organizations.
The judge, however, said the evidence proves those claims to be inaccurate; therefore, he ruled that the Conservative government’s ban on patients growing medicinal marijuana was an unreasonable barrier to access.
The media release issued today (August 11) states patients who wish to grow their own marijuana will first have to register with Health Canada. Further details on that process will be made available on August 24.
It notes that the changes are an “immediate solution” in response to the Allard decision, adding, “These regulatory changes should not be interpreted as being the longer-term plan for the regulation of access to cannabis for medical purposes.”
The release states that additional changes are coming with the federal government’s ongoing process to legalize recreational marijuana. Legislation concerning that effort is expected to be tabled in the spring of 2017.
“These new regulations will continue to be evaluated in an effort to ensure that individuals authorized to access cannabis for their own medical purposes have reasonable access,” it continues. “Health Canada is also committed to studying other models, including pharmacy distribution, to provide access to cannabis for medical purposes.”