Yes. Medical Cannabis became legal in 2000, when a landmark court ruling overturned the prohibition of Cannabis for medical purposes. Since then, numerous court decisions have forced Health Canada to create and adapt federal laws for patients who need medical Cannabis.
The ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations) is the new set of rules for growing, buying and selling medical Cannabis in Canada. It outlines a system for doctors, patients and large-scale commercial growers. These growers are called Licensed Producers.
The ACMPR is Health Canada’s revised first attempt at a commercial industry for medical Cannabis. The ACMPR has replaced the previous rules of the MMPR (Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, revised to ACMPR in August 2016) and the MMAR (Marihuana Medical Access Regulations, repealed in March 2014).
Prior to the new rules, the MMAR outlined a system for doctors, patients and non-commercial growers. The MMAR allowed patients to grow for themselves or designate an individual to grow for them. Health Canada was the only source of medical Cannabis for patients that wished to purchase it.
Health Canada was under pressure from courts to improve access to medical Cannabis. The new program makes it easier for patients to join and provides them with more product choices.
Health Canada also wanted to ban legal home grows, which have skyrocketed in recent years. However, the ban was controversial and was temporarily overturned by a court injunction. Later with the release of the ACMPR, home growing for eligible new patients became officially allowed, but came with a variety of restrictions and conditions.
Patients wishing to access medical Cannabis no longer need to contact Health Canada as they did under the MMAR. Instead, the responsibility of authorizing patients falls entirely on doctors.
In order to purchase medical Cannabis from a Licensed Producer, patients need to have a medical document, which is similar to a prescription.
As of early 2017, nearly 130,000 patients across the country are authorized to use medical Cannabis. This number is expected to reach over of 400,000 over the next ten years.
The vast majority of current patients obtained their authorizations under the MMAR. Although the MMAR has been repealed, these patients can still sign up with a Licensed Producer using their old authorizations.
Doctors are the gatekeepers of medical Cannabis. Patients who wish to access medical Cannabis need to obtain a medical document from a doctor or nurse practitioner.
The medical document covers basic information such as the daily amount needed, duration (maximum 12 months), and possibly the condition being treated. In this regard, it is similar to a traditional prescription.
A sample medical document can be accessed on Health Canada’s website.
More than 5,000 doctors have written a recommendation for medical Cannabis in the past. This represents about 7% of all doctors in the country.
The ACMPR allows medical Cannabis to be recommended as a treatment for any condition. But there are no official guidelines on its use for specific conditions.
Under the old program, conditions were split into categories and patients with certain conditions were required to obtain support from multiple doctors.
The physician that signs your medical document has the ability to set the validity for any period of time with a maximum of 12 months. The physicians in our network typically sign a medical document for 3-12 months, as a patient’s needs and experience may vary.
No, there is no limit on what your prescription amount can be (it varies on an individual basis). There is however a limit on how much you can carry with you at any given time (the lessor of 30 times your daily limit, or 150g). You will be able to order up to a 30 day supply from your LP each month.
Besides requesting one from your family physician, there are a number of clinics that specifically cater to medical Cannabis. Many offer both in-person and online appointments.
Patients may need to pay out of the pocket expenses for these services. Typical costs for an online appointment range from $200-400.
Patients who wish to access medical Cannabis need to obtain a medical document from a doctor or nurse practitioner, they are the only authorized individuals under the ACMPR who are allowed to prescribe medical Cannabis. Dispensaries offering consultations to assess you and write a “medical document” and then promptly sell you untested/unregulated Cannabis are not allowed to do so as per the ACMPR. Individuals who receive this medical document are not offered the same legal protection as someone who has been granted their Medical Document from a Licensed Practitioner.
Licensed Producers are the only legal source of medical Cannabis under the ACMPR.
Under the ACMPR, Licensed Producers are given full control over prices. Current prices typically range from $4-15 per gram, with socially responsible producers offering compassionate pricing discounts for low-income patients. There is one Licensed Producer who caters to the “luxury medical marijuana” market with $26 – $32 grams. Prices are expected to drop as the program matures.
It’s expected that with Licensed Producers and regulation, there will soon potentially be other forms of cost coverage as we’ve already seen with Veteran’s Affairs (i.e. private insurers, Worker’s Compensation, etc.). Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) recently confirmed that medical marijuana from a Licensed Producer qualifies as a medical expense. And earlier this year, private insurer Sun Life approved the request for coverage by the University of Waterloo for student Jonathan Zaid. Some patients are also able to obtain coverage using the “flex dollars” from their medical plan.
The ACMPR allows the sale of dried Cannabis, and as a result of the June 11, 2015, Supreme Court of Canada decision R v. Smith, Cannabis oil and fresh Cannabis buds and leaves. Unfortunately the sale of all other forms of medical Cannabis is prohibited at this time.
Patients who obtained access via the MMAR are covered by an injunction allowing growers with a license from the old program to continue growing until there is a resolution to the case.
Those who obtained access under the MMPR or the current ACMPR can apply for permission to grow medical Cannabis for themselves (or by a designated caregiver). This however comes with additional conditions and regulations, and they must purchase their starter materials (ie: seeds or clones) from a Licensed Producer.
You will be able to order up to a 30 day supply from your LP each month. Your 30 day purchase limit resets each month on the day your account with that specific began.
There are no official guidelines on what strains of Cannabis are better for specific conditions. However, our Cannabis Consultants and some Licensed Producers offer strain recommendations based on patient feedback.
The recommended route for taking medical Cannabis is through a vaporizer, rather than smoked. Vaporizers will heat the medical Cannabis enough to release the medical components for inhalation, but not high enough to combust the plant material. Medical Cannabis can also be taken orally in food products, but it must be in a cooked product, as the unheated medicine will not release significant amounts of the medical components, as it has not yet been decarboxylated.
You may travel with your medication within Canada. You are allowed to carry with you your daily limit x 30 or up to 150g (whichever is less). For air travel it is recommended that you check with your airline ahead of time.
No – we do not require patients to have a referral before being assessed at CCC, but it does help.
In order for our doctor to be able to make a proper decision regarding your care, we will need to access medical records indicating your chronic medical condition. Please bring any medical records that you may have to your initial appointment (consult notes, imaging results, prescription medication records, etc.).
If you do not have documentation of your chronic medical condition, please ask your physician to fax records to our office at: 1 (844) 655-2288 or download the CCC – Physician Referral Form from here.
Licensed Producers are companies that have been authorized by Health Canada to grow and sell medical Cannabis under the new program. Here is a complete list of Authorized Licensed Producers.
After obtaining a medical document, patients can register with a Licensed Producer of their choice. The registration process is different for each Licensed Producer, but typically involves submitting a registration form and validating the medical document.
Yes, but it’s complicated. As per the ACMPR, each Licensed Producer has to receive an ORIGINAL medical document in order to register a patient. So, patients are permitted to register with more than one Licensed Producer, but a separate medical document must be submitted for each, meaning that a doctor will have to issue multiple medical documents and split the daily amount of marijuana between them.
Becoming a Licensed Producer involves applying through Health Canada. It is an expensive and time-consuming process, since the rules for growing and selling medical marijuana are strict and require a sizeable investment.
But Health Canada predicts the ACMPR will generate roughly $1.3 billion in yearly sales by 2024. Likewise, the industry has become very competitive.
Health Canada states that it “does not endorse the use of marijuana” and that “marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada… [and] courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes when authorized by a physican,” which is why a federal program exists.
Not only is medical Cannabis not an approved drug, it is actually an illicit (illegal) substance and Health Canada’s current accessibility policy hasn’t changed that fact.
Health Canada is responsible for reviewing and approving all new drugs. Typically, pharmaceutical companies are required to submit extensive clinical trial data to have a drug approved. Health Canada states that it has not approved Cannabis as a prescription drug because it “has not gone through the necessary rigorous scientific trials for efficacy or safety.”
In Canada, all authorized drug products, be they prescription or over-the-counter, are assigned a Drug Identification Number (DIN) by Health Canada. Physicians, pharmacists and the public rely on the DIN to verify information about a drug’s characteristics, manufacturer, product name, active ingredient(s), strength, pharmaceutical form, and route of administration. So, not only does it not currently have a DIN, it looks like it will not have one any time soon – clinical trials of this nature generally range between 5 – 15 years.
It is interesting to note however that while Health Canada does not recognize Cannabis as an approved drug, it has recognized several vaporizing devices (used for medical Cannabis) as approved medical devices.
Along with the ACMPR, Health Canada published a review of the evidence surrounding Cannabis’s use as a medicine. The review can be accessed on Health Canada’s website and covers dosing, potential therapeutic uses, precautions and adverse effects.
Health Canada is planning to provide an additional documents on medical Cannabis “to help support doctors and nurse practitioners in making decisions.”