Article by Ljubica Kostovic, GrowWise Health
Ever since the government made it clear that it plans to legalize marijuana there has been a boom in the legal and illegal cannabis industry. This boom has raised a lot of questions about what legalization will look like, but it has also resulted in a world of confusion for many patients seeking expert guidance and pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products to help manage their conditions and symptoms. The federal authorities continue to amend regulations for access to cannabis for medical purposes, but there has been very little meaningful action, on the part of the federal government, to promote nation-wide cannabis education and access in a way that truly puts patient care at the forefront. It seems that the proliferation of dispensaries in Toronto and Vancouver has only sparked conversation about what the recreational market will look like. The issues that many medical cannabis patients face have gone unaddressed.
The question, simply, is this: what is the federal government doing to ensure Canadian patients receive the best care possible when using medical cannabis?
Current Federal Regulations: ACMPR
In its response to the Allard decision, the federal government recently introduced the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). However, aside from allowing for home-growing by patients or their designated growers–an important feat, to be sure–the ACMPR does little to promote true patient access. The issues of cost, lack of insurance coverage, lack of patient and public education, and the continued role of the healthcare provider as gatekeeper remain. To read more about the way in which each of these topics pose a challenge for medical cannabis patients, please see our post on the limitations of the ACMPR here.
Despite the new regulations, the issue of patient access to safe and quality controlled medical marijuana remains problematic for many Canadians. In addition to having restricted access to medical cannabis as a result of a lack of physician education, many patients continue to use illegal channels, such as dispensaries, to obtain their cannabis product. While marijuana dispensaries may turn out to be a favourable model for recreational cannabis use, many agree that this model does not adequately address patient care for medical cannabis patients. The dispensary model does not currently provide patients with pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products alongside the guidance of a healthcare professional, as is the case with almost all other medications obtained through a pharmacy. Although the promise of marijuana legalization for recreational purposes will, no doubt, usher in a new era of how cannabis is perceived in Canada, the excitement of a future legalized market ought not to overshadow the many challenges faced by medical marijuana patients today.