In our HALCO news Spring 2013 newsletter, we reported that the federal government was proposing to change the process for accessing medical marijuana (the government, in their legislation, spells it as marihuana).
The old system was governed by the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR). The new system is called the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR). The new MMPR came into effect in June 2013 but some of the old MMAR provisions are still law until March 31, 2014.
Under the new regulations:
. You must get your doctor or other authorized medical practitioner to complete a “medical document” that is similar to a prescription.
. Once you have your medical document, you have to register with a “licensed producer” and buy your medical marijuana from the producer. This is the only way to obtain medical marijuana.
. Your licensed producer will send your marijuana by mail to you, or you can ask to have it sent to your physician. There are strict requirements for mailing and labeling.
. Producers may only send dried marijuana (for example, you cannot receive cookies).
. The most medical marijuana you will be allowed to possess at one time is 150 grams, and it is also the most that can be shipped to you at one time.
. You must dispose of any marijuana/cannabis, plants or seeds that you have from the old MMAR before March 31, 2014. You can either destroy these items, or give or sell them to a licensed producer (you need Health Canada approval to give or sell the items to a licensed producer).
You can find general information on the Health Canada website: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/marihuana/index-eng.php.
The changes do not address the problems faced by many people living with HIV or other health conditions. Many doctors in the past have refused to provide a medical document and the new rules do not provide any solution. The changes will also make medical marijuana more difficult to afford because:
As with the old system, the new system does not recognize or authorize “compassion clubs,” even though these clubs have been shown to have multiple benefits, such as providing a space where medical marijuana users can offer each other support and information.
A lawsuit has been launched in B.C. to challenge the affordability of medical. The lawsuit also challenges other restrictions like the requirement that only dried marijuana be supplied and the restriction that no producer can grow outdoors or in a residential dwelling. If this lawsuit is successful, there will be a declaration that the new medical marijuana regime is unconstitutional. Such a declaration would affect every person entitled to medical marijuana. You do not need to register with the law firm handling the litigation. The lawsuit includes a request for an interim injunction to prevent the new medical marijuana regime from taking full effect on March 31, 2014. The Federal Court will likely hear the injunction motion around the end of February, 2014. For more information, or to keep updated, you can visit the law firm’s website: http://johnconroy.com/MMARlitigation.htm.
In November 2013, Health Canada sent a mass mailing to medical marijuana recipients in envelopes that identified the recipients as participants in the Medical Marihuana Access Program. The mailing went out to approximately 40,000 people. A law firm in British Columbia has filed an application to start a class action on behalf of these recipients, seeking damages for breach of privacy. If the court allows this class action to proceed, all recipients of the mailing will automatically be part of the law suit (unless you notify the law firm that you do not want to be part of the class action). It is not necessary to register with the law firm to be part of the class action. However, people who register will receive updates from the law firm. To find out how to register or for more information, you can visit the law firm’s website: www.branchmacmaster.com/medical-marihuana/.
These articles previously appeared in the newsletter of the HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic of Ontario (HALCO) here.