New Patient Guide

Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada for over a decade. Over the past 10 years, medical marijuana has become increasingly recognized for what it truly is: medicine with an incredible healing power. From pain reduction to cell recovery and much more, cannabis has proven to help people of all ages suffering from all kinds of pains, diseases and conditions. Although, like any medicine or medical treatment, it may not be appropriate for everyone.

This resource will help you understand why medical marijuana works, How to get Access and Who is Eligible for medical marijuana in Canada under Health Canada’s ACMPR program. We conclude with a review of common terms. – Medical Marijuana Authority

Topic 1 How and Why Does Marijuana Work?

When consuming cannabis, the compounds produced by the plant commonly referred to as cannabinoids, serve as messengers between the human brain and the other parts of the body through receptors and neurons. These compounds are similar to those naturally produced by your body, which may be in deficit depending on your condition.

By consuming cannabis, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD will be generated, which help relieve your symptoms by supplying the endocannabinoids that your body normally produces on its own, and supports your body’s endocannabinoid system all together.

THC is the chemical found in medical marijuana that causes psycho-active effects. To put it simply, it is what makes the person feel “high.” It has been shown from anecdotal evidence and substantial scientific research that THC is effective in helping patients suffering from pain, inflammation, and insomnia, decreasing the vomiting and feeling of nausea resulting from chemotherapy, stimulating appetite in patients with AIDS or HIV, and relieving the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

On the other hand, studies indicate that CBD is very promising in alleviating the symptoms of epilepsy, including Dravet’s Syndrome, a severe type of epilepsy that affects children, mainly infants. In addition, CBD has had great success in helping patients that suffer from nausea, pain, inflammation, ischemia, anxiety, panic attacks, and hereditary brain disorders. It also makes the “high” feeling caused by THC easier to endure, and limits the possibility of patients experiencing anxiety, panic, or paranoia due to the THC.

Topic 2 Are you Eligible?

Health Canada’s medical marijuana program is available to Canadians of all ages, province and territories.

Under the ACMPR, Health Canada states that in order to be eligible, a Canadian must be suffering from:

  1. Severe and/or persistent pain or muscle spasms (Category 1) from any of the following:
    1. Arthritis
    2. HIV/AIDS
    3. Cancer
    4. Anorexia
    5. Spinal cord diseases or injuries
    6. Seizures
    7. Multiple sclerosis
  2. Any debilitating symptom from a medical condition not included in Category 1 (Category 2)

For a comprehensive list of the eligible symptoms and condition currently recognized by the medical community for which medical cannabis can be prescribed see this useful resource.


Medical marijuana clinics are just like any other medical clinic, with the exception that the doctors and nurses (depending on the province) are compassionate and believe in the healing powers of medical cannabis. In fact, as mentioned earlier, medical marijuana speciality clinics are the glue to the entire system. They connect patients with compassionate doctors (which are difficult to find otherwise) and licensed producers.

Further, speciality clinics have both doctors and nurses on site (or online) as well as medical cannabis consultants. These trained consultants do the majority of the early prospective patient counselling and screening.

The benefits of medical marijuana are new to most and cannabis isn’t exactly the most accessible medicine. As such, prospective patients often require help submitting the application document(s), selecting the appropriate product (dried cannabis, oils, capsules, etc.) and licensed producer(s). Interestingly enough, most Canadians don’t even know of the existence of medical cannabis speciality clinics, despite being on the rise.


At this point, you are probably eager to just find out how the heck to get a medical marijuana prescription, so here it is. After filling out your initial patient intake form with a medical marijuana clinic, your file will be reviewed to ensure you are indeed eligible and subsequently assigned a medical professional.

You will meet your medical professional (virtually or in person) for about 15 minutes. The health care practitioner will run you through some basic questions to better understand your condition, assess whether medical cannabis is right for you and then, if approved, issue a prescription.

Prescriptions can vary in terms of duration and volume. It isn’t uncommon for medical professionals to initially issue a short-term prescription (typically three months) before issuing a full, one-year prescription term.

Prescriptions are expressed in grams of dried marijuana and can range from half a gram to over ten grams. Prescription over 4 – 5 grams are quite uncommon but have been issued in the past.

Growing Prescriptions. As an alternative to buying medical marijuana from an LP, you can also apply for a license to grow your own plants (or have someone grow on your behalf. However, due to the complexity of the application process and the low frequency of such requests, we will not dive into this sub-topic in this resource.

Topic 5 Common Cannabis Terms

When learning about cannabis, whether it be about the plant’s benefits or comparing two strains, it is important that you understand certain key terms. If you are already familiar with these terms, skip to the next section: how and why medical cannabis works.

This short list summarizes the must-know keywords that will guarantee a smooth and powerful learning experience:


Pure Indica cannabis strain types induce relaxation, sedation, and pain reduction effect. Its appearance is characterized by broader leaves, dense buds and a darker green colour.


Pure Sativa strains bring about a boost in energy, appetite while reducing pain, fatigue, stress and depression. Its appearance is characterized by narrower leaves, fluffy buds and a lighter shade of green.


Chemical compounds produced by marijuana plants, which alleviate a wide range of symptoms, including swelling (inflammation), nausea, pain and anxiety. Cannabinoids communicate with the body and mind in different ways, leading to various effects. There are at least 113 identified cannabinoids active in marijuana, the most common ones are THC and CBD.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Known as the psychotropic cannabinoid (affects mental state), this compound exhibits psychoactive effects leading to alterations in behaviour, consciousness, perception and mood.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

This compound is not psychoactive and is recognized to have a range of medical uses from treating epilepsy amongst children to reducing inflammation, reliving pain and preventing neurodegeneration (preserve brain functions).

Topic 6 Other Common Terms

Endocannabinoid System (ECS): The human body is composed of various systems. Some examples of the common ones you are probably aware of are the circulatory system, digestive system, respiratory system, nervous system, etc. Another important system of the body is the endocannabinoid system. This system is in charge of a number of very important physiological processes such as memory, mood, pain sensation, and appetite.

Terpenes: Fragrance oils (aroma or aromatic oils), composed of a mixture of essential oils, synthetic aroma and aromatic resins, which give cannabis its unique smells and tastes. Terpene composition vary from strain to strain.

Licensed Producer (LP): Refers to the Health Canada-licensed medical marijuana producers of dried cannabis, cannabis oils, capsules, plants and seeds. There are currently over 50 licensed LP’s.

Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation (ACMPR): Health Canada’s current medical marijuana program, which allows Canadians to access medical cannabis with the support of a medical practitioners. The regulations succeeded the MMPR as of August 24, 2016.

Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (MMPR): The former Health Canada program, which succeeded the MMAR in June 2013, allowed Canadians authorized by their physicians to produce their own cannabis, have grown on their behalf or purchase from Health Canada supply. The supply came from one licensed producer at the time.

Marihuana Medical Access Regulation (MMAR): This was the first official program launched by the Canadian federal government in 2001 following the decision in R. vs. Parker in 2000, where it was judged unconstitutional to block access to medical cannabis.

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