Global Report: Canada

In Feature Stories, Global by Chris Hogg

Long known for its budding British Columbian marijuana industry, Canada implemented its medicinal marijuana program in 2001, run by Health Canada. A year earlier, the Ontario Court of Appeal knocked down the marijuana possession section of federal anti-drug law, saying it violated Charter of Rights and Freedoms because no provision was made for medical users.

The medicinal marijuana program in Canada outlined three categories of people who can possess cannabis: those with terminal illness with a prognosis of death within a year, those with symptoms related to serious medical conditions, and those suffering from symptoms of medical conditions, such as severe arthritis, HIV infection and MS. The rules also set the max for the number of indoor/outdoor plants authorized growers could produce.

There are currently 30,000 Canadians licensed to possess or grow medical marijuana, up from
477 when the program began in 2001.

By April 2014, Health Canada is getting out of the medicinal marijuana business. Under the new regulations, licensed users will have to get a prescription for medical marijuana from either a physician or nurse-practitioner and then purchase the drug from licensed producers. Under the current program, the marijuana costs about $5 per gram. Under the proposed changes, that price may rise to about $8.80 a gram.

Many Canadian universities have been at the forefront of med-marijuana research, most notably the University of British Columbia. Its Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law has led major research on medicinal marijuana in Canada e.g. Cannabis Access for Medical Purposes Survey (CAMPS), funded by the UBC Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention.

The medicinal marijuana market is estimated at $5 billion in Canada.

Among the various proponents of medicinal marijuana (Marc Emery, Alan Young), Canada is home to the “marijuana mayor” Brian Taylor. He is the founder of the Cannabis Health Foundation, leads a cannabis research institute and is mayor of Grand Forks, BC.

In Summary…

  • Government-approved medicinal marijuana program; patients must apply via Health Canada to receive approval, via doctor’s recommendation. Now licensing personal growers. Program to be overhauled in March 2014 to only allow for commercial growers
  • 26,000 Canadians have access to Health Canada’s Marijuana Medical Access Program. Medical marijuana market estimated at $5 billion; British Columbia’s domestic cannabis market could be worth more than $500-million annually
  • Medical marijuana milestone: July 2000. Ontario Court of Appeal knocked down the marijuana possession section of federal anti-drug law, saying it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because no provision was made for medical users. A year later, Health Canada entered the medical marijuana business, offering marijuana to patients and licensed growers
  • University gaining notoriety: University of British Columbia. Particularly Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law, leading major studies on medical marijuana in Canada e.g. Cannabis Access for Medical Purposes Study (CAMPS), funded by the UBC Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention
  • A trailblazer in medical marijuana is Brian Taylor, founder of the Cannabis Health Foundation