Article by Julia Veintrop, Cannabis Life Network
Health Canada‘s program for the personal production of medical cannabis is an absolute nightmare, and unfortunately, it’s about to get worse. If you have a license to grow medical cannabis or are in the process of getting one, it’s going to get a lot harder to keep it. Health Canada plans to release a guidance document that can be used to refuse or revoke medical cannabis licenses. We don’t know when this is officially going to happen but we do have an idea of what this document is going to look like. For the medical patients that grow their own, it sadly isn’t good news. Here’s what you need to know.
Health Canada Draft Document – Seeking Public Input
Guidance documents are administrative instruments not having force of law and cannot be used to provide legal advice on the regulations they interpret. From March 8 to May 7, 2021, Health Canada distributed a draft of the guidance document to select groups in order to collect their feedback and consultation. At first glance, it appears that Health Canada made the effort to seek out public input but the reality is they were far more focused. According to their website, they contacted medical cannabis patients, health care practitioners and medical regulatory bodies, current license holders and licensed producers, law enforcement, provincial and municipal governments, and indigenous groups.
In addition, any Canadian was welcome to comment on the draft; that is if they happened to know about it. Once the consultation period ended, the draft document virtually disappeared. Even finding a copy for reference proved to be quite difficult and ultimately required the use of web archive retrieval.
It ain’t broke so let’s fix it
Claiming abuse of the current regulatory framework, this document was created to essentially do two things:
- Give guidance if you are trying to get a license to grow.
- Provide the necessary tools to revoke or refuse your license application.
According to Health Canada, only ten percent of licensed medical cannabis users are registered to grow; that’s only an estimated 43,000 people. It begs the question, what is the actual problem? Are all of these people posing a risk to public safety? We are on the tail end of a global pandemic and in the middle of a deadly opiate crisis, so, why is Health Canada bothering with this? According to the document, it’s to “protect public health and public safety, including reducing the risk of cannabis being diverted to the illegal market.” However, another section makes the motivation much more clear
“Since the coming into force of the Cannabis Act and the Cannabis Regulations, however, Health Canada has seen a concerning trend with the size of certain personal and designated production sites and issues associated with them. For example:
- There has been a progressive increase in the daily amounts being authorized for individuals seeking Health Canada approval to produce cannabis for their own medical purposes or to have someone produce on their behalf. For example, the average daily amount authorized by health care practitioners for individuals who access cannabis from federally licensed sellers has remained relatively constant at 2.0 grams per day, an amount that is consistent with published evidence and guidance about the use of cannabis for medical purposes. The average daily authorized amount for personal and designated production is approximately 36 grams per day.”
Hunting for Green Witches
When the final version of Health Canada’s guidance document goes public, it will pull a trigger and start a new, green witch hunt. Cannabis enforcement officers such as the Provincial Community Safety Unit will have an outline to help them go after personal medical gardens. Plus, it’s going to get a lot harder to get or renew an ACMPR. While many of the issues will be legal headaches, it’s important to note that all of them are going to involve a person who is dealing with a medical illness. Instead of letting that person focus on healing, we are going to put their access to medicine under a microscope.
Risk Assessment Factors
According to the document draft, the factors which may be considered in assessing the risk to public health or public safety include:
Prescription amount – “Is the authorized daily amount of cannabis supported by credible clinical evidence and/or published treatment guidelines?”
The first factor listed to alert to risk is the authorized prescription amount and that is absolutely terrifying. Having this factor listed will promote the use of making medicinal judgment calls because we don’t know enough to do otherwise. There is not enough data surrounding the amounts of cannabinoids needed to produce therapeutic effects. Here is why:
- The largest cannabis prescriptions are usually given in the case of acute conditions or when the plant needs to be made into an edible or extract
- Until the 2012 case of R vs Smith, Cannabis was only medically legal in dried herb form. Deemed unconstitutional during this trial, edibles and extracts became legal to use from 2012 on.
- As it stands, the College of Physicians and Surgeons will not get behind anything without long-term human studies. Because edibles and extracts were considered illicit until 2012, all long-term studies began after and have yet to conclude.
Non-compliance with the Cannabis Act
This can include previous or current incidents regarding location security, plant count, and allowing undesignated individuals on the site. However, many cannabis patients produce their medicine at home and this factor could cause at-home growers a lot of problems.