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Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations

June 2013

News Release: Harper Government Announces New Medical Marihuana Regulations

Backgrounder: Transitioning to the New System

New Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) will come into force in June 2013.

Following broad consultations with stakeholders, the Government of Canada was concerned that the Marihuana Medical Access Program (MMAP) was open to abuse.

The MMPR represent a comprehensive response to a number of concerns raised over the past years and during the public comment period following the introduction of the draft regulations in December 2012.

The regulations aim to treat marihuana as much as possible like any other narcotic used for medical purposes by creating conditions for a new, commercial industry that is responsible for its production and distribution. The regulations will provide access to quality-controlled marihuana for medical purposes, produced under secure and sanitary conditions, to those Canadians who need it, while strengthening the safety of Canadian communities. In addition, the new regulations will also provide more choices of marihuana strains and commercial suppliers.

Under the new regulations:

  • the process for applicants and health care practitioners will be streamlined, eliminating the need for individuals to provide Health Canada with their personal information or apply to the department for an Authorization to Possess;
  • personal and designated production by individuals in their homes will be eliminated on March 31, 2014;
  • current options to access marihuana for medical purposes will be replaced by regulated, commercial Licensed Producers who will be able to produce a variety of strains, thereby offering more choice to individuals who use marihuana for medical purposes;
  • Licensed Producers will have to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements such as quality control standards, record-keeping of all activities as well as inventories of marihuana, and physical security measures to protect against potential diversion;
  • Licensed Producers will distribute marihuana for medical purposes to the registered client via secure courier;
  • storefronts or retail outlets will not be permitted; and,
  • for the first time, nurse practitioners will be able to support access to dried marihuana for medical purposes, if permitted within their respective province or territory.

Under the new regulations, licensed producers will have to meet extensive security and quality control requirements.  For example, when potential licensed producers apply to Health Canada for a license, they must demonstrate that:

  • They employ a quality assurance person with appropriate training, experience and technical knowledge to approve the quality of their dried marihuana;
  • Their production site is indoors, and not in a private dwelling.  This would reduce the risk of diversion posted by outdoor production and would reduce health and safety risks associated with producing marihuana in a private dwelling;
  • The production site includes restricted-access areas, which would include all areas where a licensed activity is conducted with marihuana and cannabis other than marihuana (i.e. lab, production room, etc);
  • Access to the production site is controlled at all times and includes 24/7 visual monitoring systems and an intrusion detection system to detect unauthorized access;
  • Key personnel hold a valid security clearance, issued by the Minister of Health; and,
  • They have provided a written notification of their application, providing details regarding the location of the production site, to the local police force, local fire authority and local government.

Health care practitioners will sign a medical document enabling patients to purchase the appropriate amount for their medical condition from a Licensed Producer approved by Health Canada.

To help health care practitioners, Health Canada has updated and will soon publish the "Information for Health Care Professionals - Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) and the cannabinoids" on its web site. The document will present a summary of the peer-reviewed scientific and medical literature concerning potential therapeutic uses and harmful effects of cannabis (marihuana) and cannabinoids.

In order to facilitate the transition from the MMAP to the new regime, both will operate concurrently until March 31, 2014. Program participants can continue to produce marihuana for medical purposes, designate someone to produce for them, or purchase it from Health Canada until that date.

Effective October 1, 2013, new applications for personal or designated production licences will no longer be accepted by Health Canada. At any time during the transition period, individuals can move from their current means of accessing marihuana for medical purposes to purchasing it from Licensed Producers under the new regime.

The current program costs Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars each year because the $5/gram charged to program participants who choose to purchase from Health Canada is heavily subsidized. Under the new regime, Licensed Producers will set the price for marihuana for medical purposes. Once the first established Licensed Producers have set a price for dried marihuana, Health Canada will align the price of its supply with the market price so as not to undermine the creation of this new industry.