How it Started

The process by which patients can get their hands on medical marijuana is different now. In August of 2016, the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (“ACMPR”) was established and effectively replaced the old Marijuana for Medical Purpose Regulations ("MMPR").

In 1999, MMPR was made legal through unique exemptions in Section 56 of the CDSA (the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act). In the case R. vs Parker in 2000, the verdict established that it is justifiable for patients with medical needs to be in possession of medical marijuana. This decision resulted in the MMAR (or Marijuana Medical Access Regulations) which was established in 2001, and provided patients with endorsement of their doctor to have access to medical marijuana by producing their own cannabis plants, through the purchase of supply from Health Canada or the assignment of somebody to produce for them.

The MMAR, MMPR AND ACMPR

The MMAR went through several modifications over time as a result of court decisions. In June 2013, the MMPR was established by the government. This laid out a new set of provisions for a commercial industry in charge of producing and distributing medical marijuana. The MMPR made it legal for any person with a medical condition to have access to dried cannabis that has passed quality control checks and was manufactured under sanitary and safe conditions.

In the case R. vs Smith in June 2015, the court ruled that it was unconstitutional to inhibit legal access to just dried cannabis. Rather, it established that medical patients are entitled to use and produce other marijuana products for medical purposes. Because there was uncertainty regarding legal sources of marijuana supply, in the following month, the Minister of Health released Section 56 unique exemptions under the CDSA to permit licensed manufacturers to manufacture and sell fresh cannabis leaves, buds, and marijuana oil aside from dried cannabis, and to give authorized users permission to have and alter various forms of medical marijuana.

In Allard vs Canada in February 2016, the Federal Court ruled that requiring patients to source their cannabis from licensed manufacturers only is a violation of the security and liberty rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 7. The Court established that patients in need of medical cannabis didn’t have “reasonable” access to it. In response to this decision of the Court, the government established the ACMPR.

The ACMPR is intended for the purpose of providing an immediate solution to the issue raised by the Federal Court. It is basically divided into four sections.

One

The first section lays out a framework for commercial production by licensed manufacturers in charge of producing and distributing dried or fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, and cannabis plants and seeds under sanitary and safe conditions. It is similar to MMPR’s framework.

Two

The second section outlines stipulations for people to manufacture a limited amount of medical marijuana or to assign somebody to manufacture it for them, called a “designated” individual. It is similar to the former system of the MMAR.

Three & Four

The third and fourth sections include transitional requirements, which basically are relevant to the continuance of the MMPR activities by licensed manufacturers. In addition, it contained subsequent modifications to other guidelines that referenced the MMPR (that is, the New Classes of Practitioners Regulations and the Narcotic Control Regulations (NCR)) for the purpose of updating definitions and expanding the range of products beyond dried cannabis. Lastly, these sections contained provisions that revoke the MMPR and outline the enforcement of the ACMPR of the 24th of August, 2016.

Health Canada's Role

Health Canada has two main purposes in the administration of the ACMPR. First, is in charge of issuing licenses and overall supervision of the commercial cannabis industry. Second, it is in charge of the registration of patients to manufacture their limited supply of medical marijuana or to designate someone else to manufacture it for them.

In connection with the licensed manufacturers, the officials of Health Canada will continue carrying out comprehensive evaluation of the info provided on applications to make sure that they are complying with the guidelines and the Security Directive. In addition, they will carry on working with manufacturers even after they get their license in order to monitor them and make sure that they are complying with the CDSA. This includes conducting comprehensive inspections.

Health Canada, as of the 24th of August 2016, will start reviewing applications from people who have been given a prescription by their doctor and want to apply to manufacture their own limited supply of medical marijuana. This process involves verifying all the info provided to guarantee compliance with the guidelines, and answering law enforcement requests to verify certificate of registration’s validity.

The various groups that Health Canada will work closely with include medical professionals, territorial and provincial medical licensing officials, municipalities, members of law enforcement, and individuals with interest in applying for the program.

What Is Considered Illegal?

Any marijuana-related activities carried out outside the NCR, the ACMPR, or any exemption under Section 56 of the CDSA could be deemed illegal.

Access to marijuana for medical reasons is only allowed under the provisions set out in the mentioned laws and directives. Any storefront that sells cannabis, more generally known as a “compassion club” or “dispensary,” does not have authorization to sell or distribute marijuana for any purpose, whether medical or not. They get their supply of marijuana illegally, and the products they sell are not regulated and could possibly be unsafe to use. Such operations in Canada are subject to action from law enforcement.

Furthermore, a person who is registered to manufacture a limited supply of marijuana for their personal medical use is not allowed to give, provide, or sell the marijuana to another individual.

As for any designated individual, he or she is not allowed to give, provide, or sell marijuana to any other individual, except to the person for whom he or she is designated to manufacture in his or her registration. In addition, he or she is not allowed to manufacture marijuana for more than two individuals registered under Health Canada, including him or herself, for whom he or she has authorization to manufacture in a registration.

All registered and designated individuals are not allowed to manufacture marijuana more than the maximum limits specified in their registration certificates.

Lastly, it is illegal for any person or company to advertise or sell marijuana to the general public.

What are the Implications for Law Enforcement

On the whole, under the ACMPR, there are no changes in the role of law enforcement officials. They are tasked to enforce the CDSA, whether or not the person who is in possession of, manufactures, provides, sells, transports, ships, or delivers marijuana are operating outside of the framework of the ACMPR.

Health Canada can be contacted 24/7 by any law enforcement official if they need to confirm if a person is indeed a registered or designated individual, or if a licensed manufacturer is indeed licensed.

Likewise, a law enforcement official may get in touch with a licensed manufacturer to confirm if an individual is one of the manufacturer’s clients, or an individual liable for the client.

Evidence that the manufacture or possession of marijuana is legal must be provided to the law enforcement official if requested. This evidence could be one of the following, depending on the circumstances:

  • Client information label issued by the licensed manufacturer.
  • Separate document issued by the licensed manufacturer containing the same info as that in a client information label.
  • Designated individual document issued by Health Canada.
  • Registration certificate issued by Health Canada.
  • Manufacturer’s license issued by Health Canada.

Implications for Patients Needing Access to Medical Marijuana

Any patient suffering from a medical condition and has endorsement of a doctor can now access medical marijuana in 3 ways:

  1. He or she can go through Health Canada’s registration and be authorized to manufacture a limited supply of marijuana for personal medical use.
  2. He or she can have a designated individual manufacture the medical marijuana for him or her.
  3. He or she can register with a licensed manufacturer in order to access quality-controlled medical marijuana.

According to the ACMPR, any individual who is presently registered to buy from a licensed manufacturer may continue doing so without any disturbance or delay to their supply.

For a person who presently does not have access to medical marijuana, he or she needs to speak to a doctor first. If the doctor decides that marijuana may be helpful in the treatment plan of the person, he or she needs to provide a medical document.

The person can then utilize this medical document in two ways: register with Health Canada, or register with a licensed manufacturer. For Health Canada, the registration is either to be able to manufacture a limited marijuana supply him or herself for medical use or to have a designated person produce it for him or her. Alternatively, the person can register with a licensed manufacturer to get his or her supply of dried or fresh marijuana, or marijuana oil.

Regardless of the method chosen by a person to obtain medical marijuana (that is, either through Section 1 or Section 2 of the ACMPR), his or her maximum possession allowed is the lesser of a thirty-day supply or 150 grams or dried cannabis or the equivalent quantity if in another form.

If the person wishes to manufacture a limited quantity of medical marijuana on his or her own, he or she needs to register with Health Canada. The application form needs to be duly accomplished and should contain important information such as the location where the marijuana will be manufactured and kept. In addition to the application form, the original medical document created and signed by an authorized doctor or medical professional needs to be submitted as well.

Once the registration is approved, Health Canada will issue a registration certificate for the person. This document includes info necessary for the person to prove his or her legal authorization to be in possession of and manufacture medical marijuana. It also specifies the authorized maximum manufacture limit of the marijuana, the location of manufacture and storage, and the person’s possession limit.

If the person opts to have a designated person manufacture a limited quantity of medical marijuana for him or her, he or she must still register with Health Canada, but unlike with the application for an individual who wants to manufacture it on his or her own, the information that needs to be provided will be that of the designated individual. Similarly, the original medical document from the doctor needs to be submitted, as well as a declaration from the designated individual. This declaration includes info such as the location where the medical marijuana will be manufactured and kept. Moreover, the designated individual needs to submit a police clearance or a similar document issued by a law enforcement official certifying that the person has not been convicted or penalized for any designated drug offense during the last ten years. Note that a designated individual can only manufacture medical marijuana for up to two persons, including him or herself.

Similar to the first option, once the application is approved, Health Canada will issue a registration certificate to the registered individual and another document to the designated individual. This document contains information that specifies the allowed activities. Both the registration certificate and document could be used by either the registered individual or designated individual, correspondingly, to prove their legal authorization to be in possession of and manufacture medical marijuana.

Formerly, under the MMAR, the only way to obtain marijuana starting materials was by obtaining marijuana seeds from Health Canada. Furthermore, any person with authorization to be in possession of medical marijuana could only buy an interim quantity of dried cannabis from Health Canada while he or she waits for his or her supply to be ready.

Under the ACMPR, an individual who is newly registered is allowed to register with a licensed manufacturer using a copy of his or her registration certificate to acquire marijuana plants or seeds, and/or a provisional quantity of dried or fresh marijuana, or marijuana oil, while waiting for his or her own production.

The provisions for registered and designated individuals once their applications have been approved, such as shipping, transportation, storage, and production requirements are laid out in more comprehensively in the ACMPR. In addition, the ACMPR contain formulas that compute the quantity of marijuana that can be produced and how much can be store, depending on the daily dosage of dried cannabis permitted in the medical document of the registered individual.

On the whole, every 1 gram of dried cannabis prescribed implies a production of 2 marijuana plants outdoors and 5 marijuana plants indoors. Any individual must specify in his or her application the location where they plan to grow and store the marijuana, and it must be specified whether it is outdoors, indoors, partial outdoors, or partial indoors. For those who wish to grow marijuana outdoors, they need to confirm that the site of production is not nearby a daycare, public playground, school, or any public place where children usually go to.

Any registered and designated individual is mandated to do whatever it takes to make sure their supply of medical marijuana is kept secure. One example is by keeping the marijuana in a safe or a locked closet. Another example is to install a home alarm system.

Formerly in the MMAR, the registered individual has very limited ability to get involved or participate in the production activities of the designated individual. This has changed significantly in the ACMPR. Now, if the registered individual is already an adult, he or she can take part in all of the activities that the designated individual has authorization to perform.

Another major change from the MMAR is that any registered individual or designated individual now has the capacity to alter the dried cannabis they collect into other cannabis products, such as marijuana oil. As such, they are not allowed to use any organic solvent such as butane because of the safety and health risks involved with their use.

ACMPR’s Section 2 also deals with other aspects, such as requirements on destroying marijuana once production has ended, guidelines on cancelling a registration, and instances wherein Health Canada can make information available to territorial or provincial medical licensing officials and law enforcement officials. 

Implications for Licensed Producers

The first section of the ACMPR deals with the allowed activities and basic obligations of licensed manufacturers, such as:

  • Requirements for registration and ordering of clients
  • Permitted activities such as requirements for export and import, requirements for record-keeping, labeling, shipping, packaging, and good production procedures
  • Prerequisites to acquire and maintain a license
  • Security measures

The first section also includes the MMPR requirements and the relevant part of CDSA Section 56 exemptions in response to the R. vs Smith case decision, which enabled the manufacture and sale of marijuana oil and fresh marijuana on top of dried cannabis.

The ACMPR allowed new activities such as the manufacture and sale of starting materials, that is, cannabis plants and seeds, to the people who have gone through the registration process in the second section of the ACMPR to manufacture a limited supply of medical marijuana or have it manufactured by someone else for them, and the capability to sell a provisional amount of dried or fresh cannabis and marijuana oil to registered individuals while their own marijuana plants are still growing.

The ACMPR’s provisions regarding licenses and license applications are a combination of the license prerequisites for sale and manufacture of dried cannabis under the MMPR, the provisional license requirements under the exemptions in Section 56, and the new provisions for the sale of starting materials such as cannabis plants and seeds.

The other significant amendments of the ACMPR from the MMPR are the following:

  • Prior to the start of a recall, it is required to first notify the Minister of Health.
  • Disintegration testing is mandatory for marijuana oil in capsules or similar doses.
  • All analytical tests are required to be conducted using only validated techniques such as solvent residue testing, disintegration, and contaminants.
  • The precision of volume and weight of products in packages should now be within the range of 95-105%. The range used to be 95-101% under the MMPR.
  • There are now provisions that will enable patients to receive their marijuana supply good for 30 days within every thirty-day period starting on the date of the first sale.
  • The requirements for labeling dried and fresh cannabis now mandates that the CBD and THC percentage that could be produced should be included, considering also the potential to convert CBD-Acid into CBD and THC-Acid into THC.
  • The requirements for labeling marijuana oil now mandates that that carrier oil used should be included. Also, for marijuana oil in capsule or dosage form, the label should include the volume per unit or capsule, the net weight, and the number of units or capsules in the container.

Implications for Medical Professionals

When the ACMPR was implemented, it replaced and repealed the MMPR, but did not change the role of medical professionals. Like in the past provisions in the MMPR, any person who wants to get legal access to medical marijuana first needs to obtain a medical document from a doctor, or any certified medical professional. This document includes information similar to that in a prescription, such as:

  • The name of the individual requesting access to medical marijuana.
  • The birth date of the individual requesting access to medical marijuana.
  • The name, license number, and other license information of the medical professional issuing the medical document.
  • A validity period of use of a maximum of 12 months.
  • The daily dosage of dried cannabis in grams.

However, in a hospital, the individual in charge of the hospital has the discretion to let either dried, fresh, or marijuana oil to be administered, sold, or provided to the patient, or to a person liable for the patient.

If you want more information regarding the authorization of medical marijuana, you may visit our website Ganja.ca and read some of our articles and resources, such as the Medical Marijuana Dosage Fact Sheet.