Canada finalizes rules for medical marijuana; mail-order cannabis coming

In Regulatory, Top Stories by David Silverberg

The Harper government revealed new changes to medical marijuana regulations to be implemented April 2014. Pharmacies are no longer allowed to sell medical marijuana to licensed patients, and instead patients will have to receive their marijuana via mail order.

In other versions of the regulations, pharmacies were asked to distribute the product just like other medications, but pharmacists said they feared being robbed.

For the first time, too, nurse practioners will also be able to prescribe medical marijuana to patients.

Aglukkaq“While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marihuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety,” said Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. “These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities, while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses.”

A news release breaks down new rules for Canada’s medical marijuana 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;
  • 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.

Health Canada says licensed producers will have to meet thorough security and quality control requirements:

  • 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.

Since its introduction in 2001, Health Canada’s Marihuana Medical Access Program (MMAP) has grown from under 500 authorized users to more than 30,000 today.

For more on Canada’s approach to medical marijuana, read this.

Photo of Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq via Pan American Health Organization on Flickr

Feature image courtesy Flickr user Amanda DeVries