Changes to Canadian pot prescription laws not supported by patients
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
Medical marijuana users across Canada will soon be affected by higher prices and more stringent rules on how to acquire their much-needed medicine.
Health Canada has introduced new rules that would overhaul the medical marijuana system in Canada, which will transition from the current Marihuana Medical Access Program (MMAP) to a new regulatory regime called the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR). The MMPR is said to incorporate new rules around the acquisition of medical marijuana which reflect Canada’s anti-drug stance.
The government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has always made it clear that it does not endorse the use of marijuana. These regulations are the product of recent court decisions in which the Supreme Court of Canada has required the government to ensure “reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana when authorized by a physician.”
The changes, which go into effect as of April 1, were announced by the government last summer in an effort to control the distribution of marijuana. The decision, according to the government, was one which included public safety considerations.
“These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities, while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses,” said then-health minister Leona Aglukkak when announcing the changes on June 19 last year.
The MMAP, which began in 2001, allowed individuals to apply for special licences to grow their own marijuana from home. The MMAP, which started with only 500 approved participants, has ballooned to a program with over 30,000 active participants.
The new regulatory regime will effectively ban home-based grow operations. The regulations will enable prescription marijuana to be produced with the same safeguards as other controlled substances, such as codeine and morphine. These quality safeguards will ensure that the government controls the production of medical marijuana through Health Canada-approved distributors.
Marijuana is already considered to be a Schedule Two substance under Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The new regime is causing concern among Canadians who use medical marijuana to treat certain debilitating ailments, as the cost of marijuana under the new regime is expected to rise dramatically.
The mother of a 20-year-old woman with epilepsy in Vancouver said that the new federal rules will make medical marijuana so inaccessible that her daughter may die if the new regime is implemented.
“If there’s no way to stop them from changing this, my daughter will die,” said Cheryl Rose to CBC News.
Rose, whose daughter Hayley had been approved under the previous rules, was growing her own plant at a cost of about $200 per month. She claims that marijuana was the only thing providing Hayley—who had been having about 15 seizures daily—with any sort of relief. The MMPR will compel Rose to purchase marijuana from a government-approved producer at a much higher cost.
All personal-use production licences issued by the federal government will expire as of March 31 and medical marijuana patients will need to purchase from approved government subcontractors.