Government Releases Full Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations

The Government of Canada has released its full Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).

The new ACMPR rules allow patients three options for accessing cannabis: through licensed producers, growing it themselves or by designating someone to grow it for them.

The regulations detail licensing information, “good production practices,” how to “legally purchase starting materials,” as well as the amount of plants patients are authorized to grow.

Today was the final day allowed by Justice Michael L. Phelan for the government to create a new medical program for cannabis patients, after his Feb. 24 decision on in Allard v. Canada found the former MMPR system, that did not allow patients to grow their own medical cannabis, to violate patient rights.

“The declaration of unconstitutionality was suspended for six months from the date of the decision — until August 24, 2016 — to permit the Government to promulgate a new regime for marihuana for medical purposes,” the government stated in their summary of the ruling.

Health Canada officials estimate that the implementation of the new regulations will cost $1.5 million in the first fiscal year of the program, and $3.4 million annually, with costs dependent on the number of applications received, which the government estimates to be 20,000 in the first fiscal year and 9 per cent growth each year following.

“Administrative costs for the ACMPR will be significantly less than those under the former MMAR given that the rate of increase for personal and designated production is expected to be slower than the rate under the former MMAR,” Health Canada stated. “This is because individuals will also be able to access cannabis through licensed producers.”

Health Canada wrote that costs to administer the MMPR in 2015–2016 were $9.9 million and that administrative costs for the former MMAR system were at $25 million a year by the time the rules were repealed.

“Any incremental administrative or compliance burden costs placed on the commercial industry are expected to be minimal and to be offset by new revenue generation opportunities,” Health Canada wrote. “Licensed producers have expressed little concern with the financial impact associated with the reintroduction of personal and designated production.”

Those authorized to grow under the MMAR system (the government’s first medical cannabis regime) will be allowed to continue to do so “until the Court orders otherwise” though the government is forecasting injunction holders will enter the system “in early 2017–2018 (pending lifting of injunction).”

Lawyer Kirk Tousaw posted on Facebook that a “quick read of personal/designated production section of ACMPR reveals few changes from MMAR.”

Health Canada will also allow MMAR patients covered under a previous court injunction to change the address or designated grower on their license, but only by registering under the new regulations.

Home growers under the new system will need to have authorization from a health care provider and register with Health Canada.

The new system bans those that have been convicted of a designated cannabis or marihuana offence within the last ten years from growing cannabis for themselves. That includes any offence “that was committed while they were authorized to produce cannabis under the Act, other than under the former Marihuana Medical Access Regulations.”

Criminal restrictions for designated growers are even more stringent, with designated persons not to have been convicted of any “designated drug offence” within the last ten years, or as a young person.

The new regulations also allow for amendments to be made for patients or designated growers to update their address.

“If the Minister amends a registration in respect of a change in the location of the authorized site for the production of marihuana plants or the authorized site for the storage of cannabis, the Minister may specify the period during which the registered person or the designated person, if any, may transport cannabis from the former site to the new site,” the documents states.

Health Canada will also expand the scope of licensed producers in the country under the new rules, designating them the only legal source of seeds or plants for home growers.

The document spells out who is now legally allowed to possess cannabis in the country, including registered patients, licensed producers, scientific staff and police or others who may need to handle cannabis through the duties of their jobs.

Those legally allowed to possess medical cannabis are permitted to alter their dried cannabis or oil except with using organic solvents.

“Organic solvent means any organic compound that is highly flammable, explosive or toxic, including petroleum naphtha and compressed liquid hydrocarbons such as butane, isobutane, propane and propylene,” the regulations state.

Patients and growers are capped at a possession limit calculated by 30 times their daily quantity of dried cannabis or 150 grams, whichever amount is less.

The government’s calculation for how many plants a grower is allowed to possess is based on the patient’s daily quantity of cannabis and the location of the grow, whether indoors or outdoors or a mixture of both.

Health Canada lists that an indoor plant is expected to yield 30 grams of dried cannabis, while an outdoor plant is expected to yield 250 grams.

The government stressed that this new system is only an immediate solution to a court judgement and “should not be interpreted as being the longer-term plan for the regulation of access to cannabis for medical purposes, which is presently being determined as part of the Government’s commitment to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to marijuana.”

Health Canada admitted that formal consultation on the new regulations was limited by time and the government relied on stakeholder feedback obtained during the creation of the previous MMAR and MMPR rules.

Licensed producers were also engaged regarding certain policy aspects of personal and designated production, and how the commercial industry could operate alongside a personal and designated production regime,” Health Canada wrote, on consultations done involving the new program.