Medical cannabis patients in Canada are getting two months to give their thoughts on potential strict rule changes being tabled for personal production.
On Monday, Health Canada unveiled new draft regulations for individuals that grow medical pot at home in hopes of cracking down on people who divert weed into the illicit market.
The federal agency has launched a 60-day public consultation to gather feedback on the proposed regulation changes, which will run until May 7.
Medical cannabis patients who have applied or are already registered within the personal production program can connect with Health Canada directly at 1-866-337-7705 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The email should clearly indicate the patient’s application file number, the applicant or registrant’s name and the topic of draft guidelines for personal medical cannabis production in the subject line.
While the regulator says it’s committed to protecting patients’ rights to accessing medical cannabis, it highlighted a number of concerns with the size of certain personal production sites and potential illegal activity associated with them.
Since the Cannabis Act came into effect in 2018, Health Canada says it’s observed a rise in police raids, weapons charges, arrests and failed inspections at some production sites.
“Abuse of the medical purposes framework undermines the integrity of the system that many patients and health care practitioners rely on to access cannabis to address their medical needs,” Health Canada said in the document.
The department also cited concerns about a steady increase in the average daily amount of 26 grams authorized by health care practitioners for patients with personal production licences. In contrast, daily averages for individuals who access weed from federally licensed sellers has remained mostly constant at a reported 2 grams per day.
To combat abuse of the system, the regulator for the first time set out in its draft guidance factors it may consider to refuse or revoke personal production registrations. Factors include ensuring registered medical growers aren’t sharing cannabis or getting help with production, as well as having them prove their grow sites meet stringent security requirements.
Under the proposed regulations, Health Canada will be able to revoke personal medical grow licences if they’re proven to be associated with unjustified amounts of production or criminal activity.
The agency will also look into heath care practitioners involved with criminal activities or disciplinary action by a medical authority in relation to their prescribing practices.
What do fair personal production rules look like?
However, medical cannabis advocates have already voiced concerns about the draft guidelines.
Because law enforcement and big medical associations have lobbied their interests, grower Mark Spear says Health Canada needs to fully weigh medical cannabis patients’ interests before it issues final regulations.
Two concerning proposed changes are no sharing medical cannabis (which seems to contravene the Cannabis act), and only the authorized individual is allowed to handle medical cannabis (no trimming help). pic.twitter.com/TqHfayV4Xa
— ᴍᴀʀᴋ sᴘᴇᴀʀ (@spearster55) March 8, 2021
In a Twitter thread Monday, Spear urged patients to submit their comments in the next two months.
He cites concerns over how the proposed changes won’t allow sharing medical cannabis, which he says seems to contravene the Cannabis Act. And because only the authorized individual will be allowed to handle medical cannabis, he says some patients may encounter difficulties with the labours of production.
Another concern is how Health Canada says it will conduct its surveillance on patients with personal production licences, as well as health care practitioners that sign their medical documents.
The agency noted that it will be gathering information on whether stakeholders are following the rules through a wide variety of sources. Those include but not limited to: an inspection, law enforcement, an international organization, local authority, regulatory or licensing authority or body, the public, or from online sources, among other sources of information.
Therefore, Spears warns patients that patients should monitor their online activity and social media if they want to remain or become authorized for personal growing.
Mugglehead reached out to Health Canada for comment over advocates concerns and an estimate on when the new regulations will come into force after the public consultation period ends. While the agency is still looking into the inquiry, it didn’t get back before press time. This article will be updated when comment is received.
As of September 2020, approximately 420,000 Canadians have an authorization from a health care practitioner to use cannabis for medical purposes, Health Canada said in its document. Around 377,000 patients buy their cannabis from federally licensed sellers, leaving roughly 43,000 who are registered to grow cannabis for themselves or to have someone grow it on their behalf.
Top photo of an illicit outdoor grow in Ontario via the OPP