NORML Canada attends three Task Force on Marijuana Legalization & Regulation meetings

Craig JonesNORML Canada’s Executive Director attended the Toronto TFMLR meeting held on August 30, 2016.
John W. ConroyNORML Canada’s President (1978 to present) attended the Vancouver TFMLR meeting held on September 1, 2016.
Kirk TowsawNORML Canada’s Pacific Regional Director attended the Vancouver TFMLR meeting held on September 2, 2016.

All three NORML Canada board members share their experiences see NORML Canada at three TFMLR meetings.

New Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR)

Health Canada responded to Justice Phelan’s deadline and on August 24 introduced the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). These regulations replace the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) as a result of the Federal Court ruling in the case of Allard v Canada.

The largest modification in the ACMPR expands on the right MMAR patients hold to grow medical cannabis for their medical conditions, or designate a grower, by allowing other Canadians the option to also grow cannabis to treat their medical conditions, or designate someone to grow it for them. It is imperative that all Canadians are provided with the option to produce their own cannabis for their medical purposes as this enhances accessibility and affordability to the medicine, and addresses the issue of reasonable access identified by Justice Phelan.

Patients who wish to grow will need to present their appropriate medical document from their health care practitioner, and apply to register directly with Health Canada for their permit.

Once registered, the patient will receive a registration certificate from Health Canada. This certificate will include information required for the patient to show their legal authority to possess and produce cannabis for medical purposes. This certificate will also include the location and maximum limits of the production and storage activities, as well as the patient’s possession limit. In general, every 1 gram of dried cannabis authorized will equal to a production of 5 plants indoors or 2 plants outdoors. The possession limit is the lesser of a 30-day supply or 150 grams of dried cannabis or the equivalent amount if in another form.

Patients will also continue to have the option to purchase directly from the licensed producers as these remain a valid source of distribution under the new ACMPR. The ACMPR also mandates that starting materials, such as seeds and plants, for personal production must originate from a licensed producer.

Patients who choose to grow and directly register with Health Canada will be permitted access to an interim supply of medical cannabis from a licensed producer while their personal production is being established. However, a patient hoping to use both personal production and access to licensed producers, will have to submit 2 separate medical documentations, one to Health Canada for personal production and one to the licensed producer.

Not surprisingly, the ACMPR left out dispensaries and compassion clubs as valid methods for distribution of medical cannabis. Health Canada was adamant that these are not authorized to sell cannabis for medical purposes. The claim continues to be that these operations are illegally supplied, and provide products that are unregulated and may be unsafe. It appears that the remaining dispensaries and compassion clubs will continue to face further law enforcement action.

Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ

Who is Growing Medical Cannabis in Canada?

The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) launched in 2014 privatized the commercial production of the cannabis plant used for medical purposes and excluded personal production rights. Today, these licensed producers remain under the newly implemented ACMPR. This highly regulated program implemented by Health Canada was to pioneer an emerging industry in Canada, one with hopes of creating many jobs for Canadians.

In 2014 MedReleaf Corp. was one of such for profit private licensed producers licensed by Health Canada. By 2015 MedReleaf, had 55,000 square feet of greenhouses and 69 employees, of whom 30 were temporary foreign workers.1

However, the once illegal, and now highly regulated cannabis plant was now being treated as a mere agricultural commodity during an application in 2015 with the Ontario Labour Relations

1 Chris Grisdale, “Foreign workers are being exploited to grow medical marijuana here” (The Toronto Star, August 2016). See online: The Star .

Board in United Food and Commercial Workers Canada v MedReleaf Corp. The application was made after a group of Medreleaf workers, of which a number are under ‘closed’ temporary foreign work permits, approached the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada to assist them in getting union certification, which eventually failed.

The Board pointed out that cannabis is not a prescription drug under the Food and Drugs Act which requires all drugs to have a Drug Information Number (‘DIN’). Additionally, it reiterated Health Canada’s official position that

“Dried marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. The Government of Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana when authorized by a healthcare practitioner.”

The Board went on to say that “cannabis is still a plant and that it is grown, and that is what MedReleaf does – grow, harvest and sell plants regardless of their use,” despite the fact that Medreleaf is after all regulated under Health Canada to grow cannabis solely for medical purposes.

The Board dismissed the application in December of last year as agricultural workers fall under the Agricultural Employees Protection Act (‘AEPA’) and as such do not fall under Ontario’s Labour Relations Act. Medreleaf’s workers were seeking rights unavailable to those who work on farms or produce medical cannabis. Employees of licensed producers growing medical cannabis are essentially distinguished as agricultural workers for labour purposes largely in part because of at least one openly stated reason, and that is that our government continues to fail to recognize cannabis as medicine.

Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ

DEA Continues to Classify Cannabis as a Schedule 1 Substance

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has categories to classify controlled substances in the USA. Schedule 1 is reserved for those substances that have a high potential for abuse, for substances that have no current accepted medical use in treatment, and for those substances that lack accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Cannabis is currently found within Schedule 1 along with other substances such as heroin, LSD and MDMA. Recently, the DEA declined the request of two state-led petitions to reclassify cannabis but will instead amend policies that have restricted scientific research on the plant and will agree to expand on the number of locations growing the plant for research purposes.

Meanwhile, medical cannabis is now legal in 25 states, plus the District of Columbia, and it has been legalized for recreational purposes in Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon. The District of Columbia allows medical and recreational access but Congress has blocked commercial sales of recreational cannabis.

Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ

Understanding the New Regulations

NORML Canada urges all interested Canadians to read Health Canada’s guide to the new regulations. You can read them online here:

The full text is available here:

Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ