Health Canada wants to end medical cannabis in Canada. They’ve opened up a survey for Canadians to input their opinions. But as is usually the case with these things, the decisions have already been made.
“They’ve always been disingenuous when they put these sorts of surveys out,” says Ted Smith, long-time cannabis activist and contributor to Cannabis Digest. “They’ve really got their minds made up in the position they’re going.”
Medical cannabis patients have a constitutional right to reasonable access. But that doesn’t entail a separate medical program or even the ability to have your cannabis reimbursed through an insurance company.
“The government doesn’t have to do what’s best,” says Ted, “They only have to meet their minimum constitutional standards.”
“I know for certain that Health Canada and their lawyers have been preparing for years to argue that now there’s no need for a distinct medical program,” says Ted.
Why Does Health Canada Want to End Medical Cannabis?
Since the 1990s, medical cannabis patients have been fighting for their rights. A court decision forced Health Canada to set up a medical cannabis program in 2001.
However, they never approved it as a drug. Doctors only authorize medical cannabis. They don’t prescribe it.
Ted Smith is sure that Health Canada will put medical cannabis under the Natural Health Products Act.
“So if you want to sell something as a cannabis medicine,” says Ted, “you have to go through some testing and be able to say that it’s good for sleep or anxiety. And then you’ll be able to sell it as a cannabis health product. But it won’t be a prescription drug. It’ll be available for anyone over the counter and won’t be available through insurance anymore.”
But why? What’s Health Canada have against medical cannabis? It’s not so much cannabis they don’t like, according to Ted Smith, as it is dealing with patients and their licences.
“They’ve had multiple problems with the whole program,” says Ted. “Partly because it’s been poorly designed from the beginning.”
“From the beginnings of the creation of the MMAR they have said, ‘oh yeah we’re going to listen to members of the public’ but they didn’t create medical stores, didn’t allow for edibles, they didn’t really listen to anybody except the people they wanted to,” says Ted.
How Health Canada Will End Medical Cannabis
How will Health Canada end medical cannabis? By appealing to the recreational market. When Health Canada attempted to remove patient gardens in 2013 with the MMPR, patients responded with the Allard injunction.
The courts sided with patients because, at the time, the medical cannabis market couldn’t provide reasonable access.
“When the Allard decision was made,” says Ted, “patients weren’t getting the strains they needed, they couldn’t get them at the prices they wanted. It was something that was pre-legalization.”
“Now, patients have access to all the strains. They have access to inexpensive cannabis now too compared to what was available. The prices in the legal system are continuing to drop. Not so much for edibles yet, but certainly for the dry herb.”
Ted is confident Health Canada is moving to eliminate the program, which means no more MMAR growers. Since legalization permits four plants per household, the courts may rule that it’s good enough for patients.
Ted also expects legalization rules to change to accommodate patients, but only incremental, superficial changes. Like eight plants instead of four, or 20mg edibles instead of being capped at 10mg.
On a scale of one to ten, how likely will Canadians lose their medical cannabis program?
“I’d say right now the chances are nine,” says Ted. “Because of the general public and the people who have licenses don’t realize how serious of a threat this is.”
What Evidence Supports Health Canada?
“Most of the public and most cannabis consumers have no idea that this is what is in the works,” says Ted. Many medical cannabis patients don’t even realize their gardens are being threatened (again).
“They want the medical program gone too,” says Ted. “They don’t want to give people discounts, they don’t want to answer questions about medical use and do all the extra paper work for medical, they just want to plug stuff out the door fast.”
But you can be sure every police agency, municipality, prescription drug company, and busybody organization knows what’s happening.
“They’re doing everything they can to put evidence forward that Health Canada will be able to then use later in court.”
Medical cannabis patients may have a right to the security of the person. But Health Canada will argue that having a separate medical cannabis program won’t be in the public interest.
“And that’s when all this other evidence that Health Canada is now collecting will be put in play,” says Ted.
So instead of Health Canada’s lawyers doing the legwork, Health Canada “just put a huge net out there and said, ‘hey everybody let us know how you think about this.'”
But in fact, “they’re really just going to be collecting evidence from within the bureaucracy that wants to shut it down.”
What Can We Do?
What can we do to ensure Health Canada doesn’t end the medical cannabis program? As mentioned, the survey is more about paying lip service than anything substantial.
That said, it is crucial to let Health Canada know thousands of us are unhappy about this.
The survey wraps up on November 21st, but a week before (November 14th), Ted Smith and associates will make their answers public on Cannabis Digest.
“We want people to see all of our arguments and cut and paste from that and let Health Canada know what’s going on,” says Ted.
“For us, if there’s no medical marijuana program, there are no medical marijuana stores,” which means no more Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, which has helped countless patients over the years.
Unfortunately, none of this is surprising. When Health Canada receives 90% of its funding from pharmaceutical interests, there will be a conflict of interest.
Ted Smith has long expected how Health Canada wants to end medical cannabis. “We kind have thought they might have done that around the Smith decision,” he says.
But there is good news.
“Many of us that were behind Allard are already ready to go to court after this,” says Ted. “There’s a lot of veterans still here that I’ve been networking with across the country. And so if they do attempt to take away our rights again, there’ll be an injunction applied for it and we’ll go from there.”
Although Ted admits, “it’s going to be a lot more difficult than it was the first time.”