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A Guide to Canada’s Medical Marijuana Program

Adult use legalization is scheduled for July 2018, but in the meantime, the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations is still in full effect for registered medical patients.

Canada’s medical marijuana program has undergone multiple reincarnations since 2000, when medical marijuana was first legalized. The Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR) was passed in 2001, and created three avenues through which patients could procure cannabis:

  • Applying for a Personal Production License to cultivate their own medical cannabis at home
  • Purchasing cannabis from Health Canada
  • Designating a third party caregiver to grow cannabis for them

The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) took over in 2013, creating a system of licensed producers to cultivate cannabis and outlawing Personal Production Licenses.

The latest version is known as the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations. In order to qualify as a medical marijuana patient in Canada, aa healthcare practitioner must have authorized the use of cannabis for relief of one or more of the following symptoms that have not responded to traditional treatment methods:

  • Severe refractory nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy
  • Loss of appetite and body weight in cancer patients and patients with HIV/AIDS
  • Pain and muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis
  • Chronic non-cancer pain (neuropathic)
  • Severe refractory cancer-associated pain
  • Insomnia and depressed mood associated with chronic diseases
  • Symptoms encountered in palliative or end-of-life care
  • Other symptoms or conditions authorized by your health care practitioner

The medical document authorizing the use of medical cannabis by a healthcare practitioner can be found here.

Health Canada suggests that most individuals use three grams or less of cannabis per day, suggests waiting a minimum of 30 minutes between inhalations to gauge effects for possible overdosing, and a minimum of two hours between doses of infused edible products to gauge the strength of the dosage.

To qualify for medical marijuana under the ACMPR, a patient must meet the following criteria:

  • Ordinarily live in Canada
  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Attest that they have not been convicted of a marijuana-related offense
  • Not be registered more than once at any time

A patient may procure medical cannabis:

  • By producing cannabis themselves as a registered person
  • By obtaining cannabis produced by a registered caregiver
  • By purchasing cannabis from a licensed producer
  • From a health care practitioner in the course of treatment for a medical condition
  • From a hospital or hospital employee in the course of treatment for a medical condition

However, it is prohibited to seek or obtain cannabis from more than one source at a time with the same medical document.

In order to apply to cultivate your own limited amounts of cannabis at home, complete the registration form here.

Use this production calculator to calculate how many plants you are authorized to grow based on your health practitioner’s recommendation. To start producing cannabis at home, contact a licensed producer to procure seeds and/or clones for your first crop. This is the only legal avenue to procure seeds and/or cannabis seedlings.

Once registered, a patient may contact a licensed authorized laboratory in order to test their cannabis for the following:

  • To determine THC/CBD content
  • Microbial testing
  • Heavy metals or other contaminants
  • Other chemical analyses

It’s also important to note here that while dispensaries are common in Canada, particularly in Vancouver, BC, and in Toronto, Ontario, these shops are currently existing in a legal gray area and are subject to raid and closure.

A registered patient may possess approximately 30 times the daily quantity of cannabis prescribed by the healthcare practitioner, or a 30-day supply of no more than 150 grams of dried cannabis.

You can find the complete list of Canadian licensed producers by region available here. There are 50 total licensed producers across Canada. In order to purchase, you must be registered with a licensed producer through the company’s website and by submitting your medical document signed by a licensed healthcare practitioner.

How to Choose a Licensed Producer of Medical Cannabis in Canada

Canada’s Legalization Task Force has recommended that the medical marijuana system remain in place throughout the transition. The Task Force also recommended that the Canadian government monitor and evaluate patient access to cannabis for medical purposes during the implementation process and re-evaluate the medical marijuana framework within five years.

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Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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