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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 11:39 EDT

Harper Government Announces Proposed New Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations

December 16, 2012

Changes improve public safety, maintain patient access

VANCOUVER, BC, Dec. 16, 2012 /CNW/ – The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq,
Minister of Health, announced today that after a broad consultation
process, the Government of Canada intends to make changes to the way
Canadians access marihuana for medical purposes.

“Current medical marihuana regulations have left the system open to
abuse,” said Minister Aglukkaq.  “We have heard real concerns from law
enforcement, fire officials, and municipalities about how people are
hiding behind these rules to conduct illegal activity, and putting
health and safety of Canadians at risk.  These changes will make it far
more difficult for people to game the system.”

In the past decade, Health Canada’s Marihuana Medical Access Program has
grown exponentially, from under 500 authorized persons in 2002 to over
26,000 today.

This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health,
safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce
marihuana in their homes.

The proposed new regulations will protect the health, safety and
security of Canadians and their communities by eliminating the
production of marihuana in homes.

The Government will no longer produce and distribute marihuana for
medical purposes, opening up the market to companies which meet strict
security requirements.  Production will no longer take place in homes
and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further
enhance public safety.

The current Marihuana Medical Access Program costs Canadian taxpayers
millions of dollars each year.  The $5/gram Health Canada charges to
program participants who choose to purchase from the department is
heavily subsidized.

“An average of one in 22 grow operations (legal and illegal) catch fire,
which is 24 times higher than the average home,” said Stephen Gamble,
President of the Canadians Association of Fire Chiefs.  “We applaud the
Government of Canada for strengthening Health Canada’s regulations for
marihuana for medical purposes to enhance the safety of Canada’s
firefighters and the communities they protect.”

“Changes are necessary to reduce the risk of abuse and exploitation by
criminal elements,” said Chief Constable Jim Chu.  “We very much
appreciate the collaborative relationship the Canadian Association of
Chiefs of Police enjoys with Health Canada and how they are responding
to the unintended public safety impact through the proposed changes to
the Marihuana Medical Access Program.”

In response to concerns from patients, the proposed new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations aim to treat marihuana as much as possible like any other narcotic used
for medical purposes.  Health care practitioners will be able to sign a
medical document similar to a prescription, and then patients can
purchase the appropriate amount from an authorized vendor.  The new
system would cut red tape for individuals and ensure that they have
access to marihuana for medical purposes produced under quality
controls while streamlining the process for applicants and health care
practitioners.

“These changes strike the right balance between patient access and
public safety,” said Minister Aglukkaq.

It is the Government’s intention to fully implement this new system by March 31, 2014. On this date, all authorizations to possess and licences to produce
issued under the current program would expire, and all individuals
requiring marihuana for medical purposes would have to purchase it from
licensed producers.

Details of the proposed new regulations are posted on our website. There will be a 75-day comment period and the Department will be
receiving comments until February 28, 2013.  Health Canada will keep
all stakeholders informed as we continue to move through the regulatory
process.

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Backgrounder - Proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations – Transitioning to a New System

The Minister of Health has announced proposed regulations that would
change the way Canadians access marihuana for medical purposes.  These
proposed changes will not be finalized until the proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) come into force (expected in spring 2013).  Until that time, individuals
will continue to obtain authorization under the current Marihuana
Medical Access Program.

Here are some key dates in the transition to the new system:

Winter 2012

        --  Health Canada, through Public Works and Government Services
            Canada, will keep its contract with Prairie Plant Systems for
            the production and distribution of marihuana for medical
            purposes. This contract will run until March 31, 2014, and will
            make sure that program participants who choose to purchase
            dried marihuana from Health Canada will continue to have access
            to a legal supply of marihuana for medical purposes during the
            transition period.
        --  Health Canada will inform interested parties that they may
            apply to become authorized to conduct certain research and
            development activities with marihuana now, including testing
            plant materials and growing conditions. These activities could
            help potential licensed producers to be ready to apply for a
            licence as soon as the proposed regulations come into force.

Spring 2013

        --  The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations(MMPR)
            areexpected to come into force.
        --  In order to facilitate the transition from the Marihuana
            Medical Access Program (MMAP) to the MMPR, both would operate
            concurrently from the time the new regulations come into force
            until March 31, 2014.  During that time, individuals could
            choose to continue to access marihuana for medical purposes
            under the MMAP or order directly from a licensed producer (as
            soon as they are approved by Health Canada).
        --  Individuals would be allowed to use their Health Canada-issued
            authorization to possess or the medical declaration signed by
            their physician, for up to one year, to register with a
            licensed producer and place an order for dried marihuana from a
            licensed producer.  This would help make sure that patients can
            access dried marihuana and it would not be interrupted when the
            current program comes to an end.
        --  Once the first established licensed producers have set a price
            for dried marihuana, Health Canada will align the price of its
            own supply.

October 1, 2013

        --  For authorized users under the Marihuana Medical Access Program
            (MMAP), this system would begin to wind down.  Health Canada
            would no longer accept new applications under the MMAP for
            production licences or applications to change the location of a
            production site. This is because the time required to obtain
            seeds and produce a viable crop of marihuana for medical
            purposes is approximately six months and all production under
            the current program must end on March 31, 2014.
        --  Health Canada would continue to renew personal use and
            designated production licences under the current MMAP.
        --  Health Canada's supply would be available until March 31,
            2014.  Supply provided by approved licensed producers, will
            also be available after the coming into force of the MMPR and
            will be the only source of supply after March 31, 2014.
        --  For new applicants, after October 1, 2013, individuals
            requiring access to marihuana for medical purposes who do not
            already hold a valid production licence for a given site would
            either have to obtain dried marihuana from Health Canada (until
            March 31, 2014 only), or go directly to an approved licensed
            producer.

April 1, 2014

        --  The new system is expected to be fully implemented and the MMAP
            would end.
        --  All authorizations to possess and licences to produce issued
            under the current program would expire. Holders of personal use
            and designated person production licences would no longer be
            allowed to grow their own crop.
        --  Health Canada would no longer produce or sell marihuana for
            medical purposes.
        --  All individuals requiring access to marihuana for medical
            purposes would have to obtain it from a licensed producer. This
            competitive industry would set its own prices, choose to sell a
            variety of strains, and be subject to security requirements,
            inspections, and good manufacturing practices.

Backgrounder - Proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations

Based on consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, the
Government of Canada is concerned that the current Marihuana Medical
Access Program is far too open to abuse.

While courts have ordered that there must be reasonable access to
marihuana for medical purposes for patients that are seriously ill,
this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public
safety.

The proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations balance the needs of patients with public health, security and safety
concerns.  These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian
communities, while making sure patients can access what they need to
treat serious illnesses.

The new regulations’ objective is to treat marihuana as much as possible
like other narcotics used for medical purposes by:

        --  Eliminating risky production of marihuana by individuals in
            their homes;
        --  Ending Health Canada's role in authorizing individuals to
            possess and produce marihuana and in supplying and distributing
            marihuana; and
        --  Creating conditions for the establishment of a regulated
            commercial market of licensed producers responsible for the
            production and distribution of marihuana for medical purposes.
            These regulated licensed producers would have to meet extensive
            security and quality control requirements.
        --  Patients would obtain a medical document, similar to a
            prescription, and purchase marihuana directly from a licensed
            producer.
        --  Individuals would be able to obtain a medical document from a
            licensed medical practitioner, or, if permitted by provincial
            or territorial governments, from a nurse practitioner. If
            permitted by provinces and territories, pharmacists could also
            dispense marihuana directly to individuals.

The regulations would also streamline the process to obtain access to
marihuana for medical purposes for individuals and improve the quality
of this product by:

        --  No longer requiring individuals to apply to Health Canada - and
            submit their personal medical information to the government -
            for authorization to access marihuana for medical purposes;
        --  No longer requiring individuals to consult a specialist in
            addition to their health care practitioner;
        --  Simplifying the process for health care practitioners to
            support access by removing the requirement to sign a medical
            declaration and fill out Health Canada forms;
        --  Providing access to quality-controlled marihuana for medical
            purposes by requiring licensed producers to be subject to
            inspections and good production practices.

Backgrounder - Safety and Security Requirements for Licensed Producers

The Government of Canada is concerned that the current Marihuana Medical
Access Program is vulnerable to abuse.  While the courts have said that
there must be reasonable access to marihuana for medical purposes, the
Government believes that this must be done in a controlled fashion in
order to protect public safety.

The proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) create the conditions for the establishment of a regulated
commercial market of licensed producers responsible for the production
and distribution of marihuana for medical purposes.  These regulated
licensed producers would have to meet extensive security and quality
control requirements. For example, when potential licensed producers
apply to Health Canada for a license, they must demonstrate that:

        --  They employ a quality assurance person with appropriate
            training, experience and technical knowledge to approve the
            quality of their dried marihuana;
        --  Their production site is indoors, and not in a private
            dwelling.  This would reduce the risk of diversion posted by
            outdoor production and would reduce health and safety risks
            associated with producing marihuana in a private dwelling;
        --  The production site includes restricted-access areas, which
            would include all areas where a licensed activity is conducted
            with marihuana and cannabis other than marihuana (i.e. lab,
            production room, etc);
        --  Access to the production site is controlled at all times and
            includes 24/7 visual monitoring systems and an intrusion
            detection system to detect unauthorized access;
        --  Key personnel hold a valid security clearance, issued by the
            Minister of Health; and,
        --  They have provided a written notification of their application,
            providing details regarding the location of the production
            site, to the local police force, local fire authority and local
            government.

It will not be possible to apply to become a licensed producer until the
proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations come into effect.

However, interested parties may immediately apply to become authorized
to conduct certain research and development activities with marihuana,
including testing marihuana plant materials and growing conditions. 
Beginning these research and development activities now may help
potential licensed producers to be ready to apply for a licence when
the regulations come into force.  However, authorisation to conduct
research and development is not a guarantee that a producer will
receive a licence under the proposed regulations. They would still have
to demonstrate compliance with all of the regulatory requirements.

Interested parties can visit the Health Canada website for further information.

SOURCE Health Canada


Source: PR Newswire