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How is medical marijuana regulated in Canada?

A marijuana plant is seen at Tweed Marijuana Inc in Smith's Falls, Ontario, March 19, 2014. REUTERS/Blair Gable
REUTERS/Blair Gable

In March 2014, Health Canada repealed The Marihuana Medical Access Regulations and replaced it with Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. As of August 24, 2016, the MMPR program has been replaced by the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.

The new regulations got rid of the ban that prohibited medical marijuana users to grow their own medical cannabis. Users can grow their own medical marijuana but only in limited amounts and they must register to do so with Health Canada.

Users can also designate another person to grow the marijuana for them, as long as that person undergoes a background check that shows they have not be convicted of a drug offense in the last 10 years. Both the user and the designated grower must be registered with Health Canada.

Those allowed to grow their own limited amount of marijuana may not provide, sell or let others use their marijuana.

Those designated to grow for another person are not allowed to provide, sell or let other use the marijuana, with the exception of him or herself and the person for which they are growing the marijuana.

However, the new law has still kept some provisions from the MMPR, such as the fact that medical marijuana users can get cannabis from licensed growers. Licensed growers are also the only source from whom users are allowed to get the seeds or plants to grow their own marijuana. Health Canada has a list of licensed producers from which certified medical marijuana users may obtain the materials to grow their own pot.

The decision to use medical marijuana is between the physician or qualified nurse practitioner and his or her patient. The patient must get the medical document from their healthcare practitioner showing they have been approved for using medical marijuana as a treatment. The healthcare practitioner also must specify the period of use and well as the quantity of use allowable.

Only medical marijuana is currently permitted for use, any other use of marijuana is still illegal.

How does the ACMPR program work?

The new program is broken down into four parts:

1. A framework for commercial production of medical marijuana for licensed producers;

2. A provision for people to grow marijuana for their own medical use, as long as they register with Health Canada. Consequently, they can also appoint someone else to grow it for them as long as that person undergoes a background check.

3. and 4. Those include transitional provisions to allowed licensed growers to keep growing marijuana to sell to medical marijuana users, provisions that repeal part of the MMPR and amendments to some regulations found in the MMPR.

What is the possession limit?

The limit is the lesser of a 30-day supply, or 150 grams of dried marijuana or the equivalent amount if in another form.

In what form can I buy/use medicinal marijuana?

Whereas in the past, the only form of medical marijuana allowed for use was dried, the Supreme Court of Canada released a decision in June 2015 in the case of R v. Smith that ruled all forms of the drug are legal.

This allows producers to sell it fresh — cannabis — and as an oil.

The provincial regulatory bodies for physicians also issue guidelines on prescribing medical marijuana, so you may face more restrictions when you are trying to access it.

The federal government has said that it would legalize marijuana in the spring of 2017, which will likely result in further amendments to the current medical marijuana regime or could result in an abolishment of the medical marijuana regulations.

Read more:

Understanding the New Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations

Home-grown medical marijuana: The new rules