Cannabis Act legislative review may threaten medical marijuana program

A legislative review of the Cannabis Act includes an issue that could threaten medical marijuana programs, according to an expert in the field.

The Cannabis Act of 2018 created a framework aimed at regulating the cannabis industry, including a mandatory review that will take place about three years after its passage.

After some delays, Health Canada has set out to launch the review with a questionnaire, including questions that Ted Smith of the Victorian Cannabis Buyers Club said could threaten the future of the medical marijuana program.

Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club is a medical cannabis dispensary offering medical cannabis to those with documented chronic conditions that can be treated with cannabis.

“Question 5.2 in the survey, at the end, asks bluntly whether the medical marijuana program could be eliminated and push patients into the recreational system,” Smith said. “So their question was blunt, and I believe it’s because they had every intention of shutting down the project.”

The question Smith is referring to is: “Is there a need for a unique medical access program to provide individuals with reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes, or can access be met through a non-medical framework?”

The Medical Access Program allows eligible patients to obtain cannabis products with higher THC content and to communicate specifically with sellers about the medical benefits associated with the products of their choice, which is not available on recreational storefronts.

However, under current legislation, patients can only obtain medical marijuana through mail order and with a credit card.

“Right now, the only way a patient can legally ask any of these producers a question is by email,” Smith said. “So there’s a lot of people who are illiterate, elderly, really disabled or homeless, who don’t have access to the healthcare system because it’s designed.”

Doctors, insurance companies, and the government are all wrangling over the distinction between medical and recreational marijuana use.

Ultimately, however, the people most affected are patients who rely on marijuana as a medicine, Smith said.

With limited support from the medical community, Health Canada has pushed to end the medical marijuana program since its inception, Smith said.

“them [doctors] They don’t want to talk about it, they don’t want to prescribe it, they don’t understand it,” Smith said. “So, for the most part, the medical community — although there are some doctors who support it — the majority of the medical community wants to get rid of it. Insurance companies don’t want to cover it as a prescription drug. “

With medical programs already out of reach, Smith said many patients are turning to the black market for high-dose cannabis products like gummies and other edibles.

Because the Cannabis Act does not allow medical marijuana storefronts, patients are not paying for lower-dose, higher-taxed recreational products and are buying them through unofficial channels.

“The black market is now prolific, especially for high-dose foods, and medical patients aren’t going to buy more expensive, lower-dose products because they’re legal,” Smith said.

The review, he said, is not a response to those concerns but another hurdle for advocates of medical marijuana programs.

Smith believes any move to remove the medical marijuana program from the books would be swift but would be challenged by patient advocates.

“Hopefully it never happens and it’s going to be challenged in court,” Smith said. “Over time, some of the arguments we’ve won in the past are not as strong anymore. So it’s a scary situation for patients because there are so many unknowns.”

@HL Ferguson
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