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Harper Government Announces Proposed New Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations
By: PR Newswire
Dec. 16, 2012 04:41 PM
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:
October 1, 2013
April 1, 2014
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:
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:
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:
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
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