Yesterday’s announcement of new Health Canada regulations around medical cannabis was met by the cannabis community with mixed response.
The new rules, Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), replace the existing MMPR system once again allowing medical patients to grow their own cannabis at home but only by getting seeds and supplies from the licensed cannabis producers set up under the old regime.
Licensed producers were quick to respond to the new system, with Canopy Corp saying the news was positive for their patients and “the 95% of people who don’t abuse the privilege of growing at home.”
“Make no mistake: in our view, there is no substitute for clean, convenient, quality-assured cannabis at competitive prices,” the statement read. “While we support a patient’s right to grow at home, the MMAR and the grow-at-home system it represents is not good policy.”
Canopy, which owns licensed cannabis growers Tweed and Bedrocan Canada, said growing at home is filled with risks, including abuse of plant limits.
Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana executive director Jonathan Zaid said the ACMPR is a step in the right direction, but the regulations don’t include measures for cost-coverage and medical cannabis will still be subject to sales tax.
“The regulations fail to address the urgent issue of affordability for patients who are unable to do so,” said Zaid. “It’s about time Health Canada and the government actively listen and address the concerns of patients instead of continuing along with the litigious environment we have seen to date.”
Lawyer Kirk Tousaw called the new regulations a step forward from the previous MMPR system which was found in violation of patient rights in court.
“The devil is in the details and the full text of the regulations are not currently available,” Tousaw wrote, on his website. “However this response by the Liberal government is significantly more robust and responsive to the Charter ruling than prior responses by the Conservatives.”
On facebook, activist Daron Rutter said he’s planning a hunger strike in front of Vancouver City Hall due to the new regulations as he said he and his partner have seen their health deteriorate due to decreasing availability and increasing prices of medical cannabis.
“Very soon, the only legal source will be Health Canada’s LP monopoly, which has been proven to be corrupt and to provide inferior medicine that harms patients,” Rutter wrote.
Windsor, Ontario vapour lounge Higher Limits owner Jon Liedtke said he believed the new ACMPR could increase business.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, however, because we still have to see what the legalization will look like under the recreational formula,” he said. “So cautiously opmtimistic but these are very good moves forward.”
Advocate and dispensary operator Dana Larsen said he thought the changes were an improvement, but still sees many flaws in the new system, including the 150 g possession limit, the limit of two patients per designated grower and the government’s messaging around dispensaries.
“Health Canada’s comments on how dispensaries are still illegal were expected, but still disheartening to hear them attacking the primary means of medical cannabis access for most Canadians,” Larsen wrote, on Facebook.
Pharmacy groups, who had publicly and privately lobbied the government for inclusion in the medical system, were denied access to cannabis sales, with the government only willing to say that the delivery system would be considered in the future.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association released a statement following the ACMPR announcement stating their disappointment that the government had missed “an important opportunity to improve patient access and safety through pharmacist management and dispensing of medical marijuana.”
The government has said that the new regulations are not a long term solution and more changes are expected to be announced next year, when the Liberals put forward their plan for legalized recreational cannabis.