Changes improve public safety, maintain patient access
VANCOUVER, BC, Dec. 16, 2012 /CNW/ - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq,
Minister of Health, announced today that after a broad consultation
process, the Government of Canada intends to make changes to the way
Canadians access marihuana for medical purposes.
"Current medical marihuana regulations have left the system open to
abuse," said Minister Aglukkaq. "We have heard real concerns from law
enforcement, fire officials, and municipalities about how people are
hiding behind these rules to conduct illegal activity, and putting
health and safety of Canadians at risk. These changes will make it far
more difficult for people to game the system."
In the past decade, Health Canada's Marihuana Medical Access Program has
grown exponentially, from under 500 authorized persons in 2002 to over
This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health,
safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce
marihuana in their homes.
The proposed new regulations will protect the health, safety and
security of Canadians and their communities by eliminating the
production of marihuana in homes.
The Government will no longer produce and distribute marihuana for
medical purposes, opening up the market to companies which meet strict
security requirements. Production will no longer take place in homes
and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further
enhance public safety.
The current Marihuana Medical Access Program costs Canadian taxpayers
millions of dollars each year. The $5/gram Health Canada charges to
program participants who choose to purchase from the department is
"An average of one in 22 grow operations (legal and illegal) catch fire,
which is 24 times higher than the average home," said Stephen Gamble,
President of the Canadians Association of Fire Chiefs. "We applaud the
Government of Canada for strengthening Health Canada's regulations for
marihuana for medical purposes to enhance the safety of Canada's
firefighters and the communities they protect."
"Changes are necessary to reduce the risk of abuse and exploitation by
criminal elements," said Chief Constable Jim Chu. "We very much
appreciate the collaborative relationship the Canadian Association of
Chiefs of Police enjoys with Health Canada and how they are responding
to the unintended public safety impact through the proposed changes to
the Marihuana Medical Access Program."
In response to concerns from patients, the proposed new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations aim to treat marihuana as much as possible like any other narcotic used
for medical purposes. Health care practitioners will be able to sign a
medical document similar to a prescription, and then patients can
purchase the appropriate amount from an authorized vendor. The new
system would cut red tape for individuals and ensure that they have
access to marihuana for medical purposes produced under quality
controls while streamlining the process for applicants and health care
"These changes strike the right balance between patient access and
public safety," said Minister Aglukkaq.
It is the Government's intention to fully implement this new system by March 31, 2014. On this date, all authorizations to possess and licences to produce
issued under the current program would expire, and all individuals
requiring marihuana for medical purposes would have to purchase it from
Details of the proposed new regulations are posted on our website. There will be a 75-day comment period and the Department will be
receiving comments until February 28, 2013. Health Canada will keep
all stakeholders informed as we continue to move through the regulatory
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Backgrounder - Proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations - Transitioning to a New System
The Minister of Health has announced proposed regulations that would
change the way Canadians access marihuana for medical purposes. These
proposed changes will not be finalized until the proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) come into force (expected in spring 2013). Until that time, individuals
will continue to obtain authorization under the current Marihuana
Medical Access Program.
Here are some key dates in the transition to the new system:
Health Canada, through Public Works and Government Services Canada, will
keep its contract with Prairie Plant Systems for the production and
distribution of marihuana for medical purposes. This contract will run
until March 31, 2014, and will make sure that program participants who
choose to purchase dried marihuana from Health Canada will continue to
have access to a legal supply of marihuana for medical purposes during
the transition period.
Health Canada will inform interested parties that they may apply to
become authorized to conduct certain research and development
activities with marihuana now, including testing plant materials and
growing conditions. These activities could help potential licensed
producers to be ready to apply for a licence as soon as the proposed
regulations come into force.
The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) are expected to come into force.
In order to facilitate the transition from the Marihuana Medical Access
Program (MMAP) to the MMPR, both would operate concurrently from the
time the new regulations come into force until March 31, 2014. During
that time, individuals could choose to continue to access marihuana for
medical purposes under the MMAP or order directly from a licensed
producer (as soon as they are approved by Health Canada).
Individuals would be allowed to use their Health Canada-issued
authorization to possess or the medical declaration signed by their
physician, for up to one year, to register with a licensed producer and
place an order for dried marihuana from a licensed producer. This
would help make sure that patients can access dried marihuana and it
would not be interrupted when the current program comes to an end.
Once the first established licensed producers have set a price for dried
marihuana, Health Canada will align the price of its own supply.
October 1, 2013
For authorized users under the Marihuana Medical Access Program (MMAP),
this system would begin to wind down. Health Canada would no longer
accept new applications under the MMAP for production licences or
applications to change the location of a production site. This is
because the time required to obtain seeds and produce a viable crop of
marihuana for medical purposes is approximately six months and all
production under the current program must end on March 31, 2014.
Health Canada would continue to renew personal use and designated
production licences under the current MMAP.
Health Canada's supply would be available until March 31, 2014. Supply
provided by approved licensed producers, will also be available after
the coming into force of the MMPR and will be the only source of supply
after March 31, 2014.
For new applicants, after October 1, 2013, individuals requiring access
to marihuana for medical purposes who do not already hold a valid
production licence for a given site would either have to obtain dried
marihuana from Health Canada (until March 31, 2014 only), or go
directly to an approved licensed producer.
April 1, 2014
The new system is expected to be fully implemented and the MMAP would
All authorizations to possess and licences to produce issued under the
current program would expire. Holders of personal use and designated
person production licences would no longer be allowed to grow their own
Health Canada would no longer produce or sell marihuana for medical
All individuals requiring access to marihuana for medical purposes would
have to obtain it from a licensed producer. This competitive industry
would set its own prices, choose to sell a variety of strains, and be
subject to security requirements, inspections, and good manufacturing
Backgrounder - Proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations
Based on consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, the
Government of Canada is concerned that the current Marihuana Medical
Access Program is far too open to abuse.
While courts have ordered that there must be reasonable access to
marihuana for medical purposes for patients that are seriously ill,
this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public
The proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations balance the needs of patients with public health, security and safety
concerns. These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian
communities, while making sure patients can access what they need to
treat serious illnesses.
The new regulations' objective is to treat marihuana as much as possible
like other narcotics used for medical purposes by:
Eliminating risky production of marihuana by individuals in their homes;
Ending Health Canada's role in authorizing individuals to possess and
produce marihuana and in supplying and distributing marihuana; and
Creating conditions for the establishment of a regulated commercial
market of licensed producers responsible for the production and
distribution of marihuana for medical purposes. These regulated
licensed producers would have to meet extensive security and quality
Patients would obtain a medical document, similar to a prescription, and
purchase marihuana directly from a licensed producer.
Individuals would be able to obtain a medical document from a licensed
medical practitioner, or, if permitted by provincial or territorial
governments, from a nurse practitioner. If permitted by provinces and
territories, pharmacists could also dispense marihuana directly to
The regulations would also streamline the process to obtain access to
marihuana for medical purposes for individuals and improve the quality
of this product by:
No longer requiring individuals to apply to Health Canada - and submit
their personal medical information to the government - for
authorization to access marihuana for medical purposes;
No longer requiring individuals to consult a specialist in addition to
their health care practitioner;
Simplifying the process for health care practitioners to support access
by removing the requirement to sign a medical declaration and fill out
Health Canada forms;
Providing access to quality-controlled marihuana for medical purposes by
requiring licensed producers to be subject to inspections and good
Backgrounder - Safety and Security Requirements for Licensed Producers
The Government of Canada is concerned that the current Marihuana Medical
Access Program is vulnerable to abuse. While the courts have said that
there must be reasonable access to marihuana for medical purposes, the
Government believes that this must be done in a controlled fashion in
order to protect public safety.
The proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) create the conditions for the establishment of a regulated
commercial market of licensed producers responsible for the production
and distribution of marihuana for medical purposes. These regulated
licensed producers would have to meet extensive security and quality
control requirements. For example, when potential licensed producers
apply to Health Canada for a license, they must demonstrate that:
They employ a quality assurance person with appropriate training,
experience and technical knowledge to approve the quality of their
Their production site is indoors, and not in a private dwelling. This
would reduce the risk of diversion posted by outdoor production and
would reduce health and safety risks associated with producing
marihuana in a private dwelling;
The production site includes restricted-access areas, which would
include all areas where a licensed activity is conducted with marihuana
and cannabis other than marihuana (i.e. lab, production room, etc);
Access to the production site is controlled at all times and includes
24/7 visual monitoring systems and an intrusion detection system to
detect unauthorized access;
Key personnel hold a valid security clearance, issued by the Minister of
They have provided a written notification of their application,
providing details regarding the location of the production site, to the
local police force, local fire authority and local government.
It will not be possible to apply to become a licensed producer until the
proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations come into effect.
However, interested parties may immediately apply to become authorized
to conduct certain research and development activities with marihuana,
including testing marihuana plant materials and growing conditions.
Beginning these research and development activities now may help
potential licensed producers to be ready to apply for a licence when
the regulations come into force. However, authorisation to conduct
research and development is not a guarantee that a producer will
receive a licence under the proposed regulations. They would still have
to demonstrate compliance with all of the regulatory requirements.
Interested parties can visit the Health Canada website for further information.
SOURCE: Health Canada
For further information:
Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Federal Minister of Health
Health Canada news releases are available on the Internet at