June 17, 2011
For immediate release
OTTAWA - To reduce the risk of abuse and exploitation by criminal elements and keep our children and communities safe, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, today announced that the Government of Canada is considering improvements to the Marihuana Medical Access Program.
"Our Government is very concerned that the current Marihuana Medical Access Program is open to abuse and exploitation by criminal elements," said Minister Aglukkaq. "That is why we are proposing improvements to the program that will reduce the risk of abuse and keep our children and communities safe, while significantly improving the way program participants access marihuana for medical purposes."
The Government is launching public consultations today with Canadians on the proposed improvements. A consultation document has been posted on the Health Canada website which contains the proposed improvements. Interested Canadians are invited to provide comments until July 31, 2011. Input from these consultations will be considered in the development of new regulations, which Canadians will again have an opportunity to comment on when the proposed regulations appear in Canada Gazette, Part I, in 2012.
"These proposed improvements reflect concerns we have heard from all kinds of Canadians including law enforcement, fire officials, municipalities, program participants and the medical profession," said Minister Aglukkaq.
It is important to note that the legalization or decriminalization of marihuana is not a part of these improvements. Marihuana will continue to be regulated as a controlled substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Until improvements to the program are in place, the process for applying for an authorization to possess and/or a license to produce marihuana for medical purposes under the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations will remain the same.
Canadian Courts have established that individuals who have demonstrated a medical need for marihuana have a right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to possess and access a legal supply of marihuana. In recognition of a need for a process to provide seriously ill Canadians with access to marihuana for medical purposes, the Government introduced the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations in 2001. Activities including possession, production and trafficking of marihuana other than as authorized under the regulations remain illegal.
The consultation document, "Proposed Improvements to Health Canada's Marihuana Medical Access Program", is available online.
A summary of the proposed changes can be found in the attached backgrounder.
Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Federal Minister of Health