5 Differences Between the United States’ and Canada’s Medical Cannabis Programs

Article by Lisa Rough, Leafly

5 Differences Between the United States’ and Canada’s Medical Cannabis Programs

As Canada prepares to legalize cannabis countrywide, many have wondered how its medical marijuana program compares to the United States’. Here are five key similarities and differences between each country’s medicinal cannabis guidelines.

5 Differences Between the United States’ and Canada’s Medical Cannabis Programs

Federal vs. State Regulation

The biggest notable difference between the Canadian and American medical marijuana systems is that Canada’s program is federally regulated, while America relies on separate state programs that vary significantly. Cannabis in the United States is prohibited at a federal level, which means each state must set up its own program individually, establishing possession limits, restrictions on cultivation, and nonstandard rules.

Canada, conversely, federally legalized medical cannabis in 2000, and the program has since undergone multiple incarnations. The Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR) was first established in 2001 and allowed patients to grow cannabis with an authorization. The system was revamped in 2013 and renamed the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), which got rid of personal production permits and established a system of licensed producers to grow and sell cannabis. On August 24, 2016, the system underwent its final transformation into the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).

Shipping Marijuana vs. Shopping In-Store

Health Canada is tasked with overseeing the medical marijuana program and regulating the licensed cannabis producers that cultivate cannabis to be shipped to patients. Canada is unique in that not only is cannabis allowed to be shipped to medical marijuana patients, it’s actually required. It is not legal, however, for private patients to ship cannabis to each other; the shipment can only come from a licensed producer. Although medical marijuana dispensaries are fairly prominent in Canada, they exist in a legal gray area and are often subject to raids.

In the United States, it is prohibited to ship or transport any federally restricted substance through the US mail system or across state lines. To do so is to risk a federal felony charge from the U.S. government. Patients may not order cannabis online or have it legally shipped to them; instead, they may visit a state-regulated medical marijuana dispensary to purchase cannabis with a valid state-issued medical marijuana authorization.

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