The laws relating to medical cannabis are rapidly evolving. The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (hereinafter the “MMPR”) required patients prescribed cannabis for medical reasons to purchase cannabis from a producer licensed by Health Canada. In Allard v. Canada1, the Federal Court found that this limitation was a violation of patients’ life, liberty and security of person as guaranteed by section 7 of the Charter. The Federal Court, in the decision released on February 24, 2016, gave the government 6 months to change the MMPR.
In response, the government enacted the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (hereinafter “ACMPR”) which came into force on August 24, 2016.2 The ACMPR replaced the MMRP.
The ACMPR only governs medicinal uses of cannabis. The ACMPR provides patients with the option of growing their own cannabis instead of forcing them to purchase from a licensed producer.
Three options for obtaining medical cannabis
The ACMPR provides following three options to patients that have been authorized by a health care practitioner to use cannabis for medical purposes
(a) The patient can apply to grown their own cannabis
An individual can apply to Health Canada for approval to produce a limited amount of cannabis for their own medical use. Their application must include original medical documentation from a health care professional in support of their application as well as information as to where the cannabis will be grown and stored. If the application is approved, they will receive a certificate from Health Canada to produce their own cannabis.
The quantity of cannabis the patient will be permitted to produce and store will depend upon the dosage authorized by their doctor. Sections 290 and 291 of the ACMPR set out the formulas for calculating the number of plants that can be grown and the quantum of cannabis that can be stored.
Individuals who receive authorization to grown their own cannabis must purchase seeds or plants from a licensed Health Canada producer.
(b) The patient can apply to have someone else grow cannabis for them
The individual can apply with Health Canada with the same information set out in (a) above but can request than another individual be designated to grow for them. A “designated person” will be permitted to grow for a maximum of two people. The “designated person” must apply for registration with Health Canada in addition to the patient.
(c) The patient can purchase cannabis from a licensed cannabis producer
Producers who were licensed under the MMPR are permitted to continue to supply patients with cannabis for medical purposes under the ACMPR.
The regulation of licensed producers under the ACMPR is similar to the MMPR. However, licensed producers will now be permitted to sell cannabis seeds and plants to authorized individuals in addition to dried and fresh cannabis and cannabis oil. Under the MMPR licensed producers were not permitted to sell plants or seeds.
Rapidly changing area of law
On May 26, 2017, Health Canada announced further changes to the licensing process which will permit producers to increase their production capacity. Licenses may now be issued or renewed for a three year period and security clearances may be valid for a five year term.
For those producers waiting for a license, several changes have been made to speed up the process including the elimination of the requirement for a pre-license inspection in advance of issuing a licence. Additionally, Health Canada is increasing resources for the licensing process which is intended to result in applications being processed faster. Additional changes are expected in the future.
The Federal Government’s plan to have legislation making recreational cannabis legal as of July 1, 20183 will create a massive change to the cannabis framework in Canada. The ACMPR will continue in effect but will be subject to future review.
It is important to note that those who hold a licence to possess or produce medical cannabis under the ACMPR will automatically be licensed to continue those activities with respect to non-medical cannabis.4
If you have questions regarding the ACMPR or how it may affect your company, please contact Daniel D. Nauth at 416-477-6031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Allard v. Canada,  3 F.C.R. 303 (FC). The decision can be found here.
2 The ACMPR can be found here
3 See the Government of Canada website for more information on the Government’s plan to regulate recreational cannabis
4 Cannabis Act, Section 158.