Some people in Canada can now legally grow their own marijuana. Under enhanced medical cannabis rules announced by Health Canada, registered patients can grow small amounts of pot without repercussions as long as it is used for their own treatment.
"If an individual wants to produce a limited amount of cannabis for his/her own medical purposes, he/she must submit an application to register with Health Canada," according to a department document. "An original medical document from the health-care practitioner must be provided and the application must include information such as the location of where cannabis will be produced and stored."
The amount of medical marijuana allowed to be cultivated is dependent on how much is prescribed for the patient. If a person is allowed one gram of cannabis a day, as many as two outdoor plants or five indoor plants are allowed. According to health officials, outdoor plants yield a greater supply than indoor plants.
Only licensed marijuana producers are allowed to sell the plants and seeds for homegrown medical cannabis plants. They can also sell the approved patient an initial supply of cannabis until the plants are mature enough to provide buds on their own.
In 2013, conservative Canadian lawmakers passed a law prohibiting patients from growing their own supply of medical marijuana and forced them to buy it only from licensed cannabis producers. Health Canada started working on new rules after a federal court struck down the law earlier this year.
In a February 4 ruling, Judge Michael Phelan said the law restricted a patient's liberties under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by obligating the purchase of medical marijuana from "a single government-approved contractor" and prevented the patient from selecting their own provider. The judge allowed the government six months to re-write the rules.
Under a 2014 injunction, 28,000 patients were already growing their own medical marijuana at home before Phelan's ruling. Part of the judge's order this year allowed these patients to continue until the new rules are implemented. Health Canada said they would be diligently working on getting these patients registered in the new system as quickly as possible.
The case was brought before the court after four British Columbia residents had argued the 2013 law was unconstitutional and prevented access to affordable medicine. Health Canada said the new medical marijuana rule "provides an immediate solution" to patients.
"While the new regulations address patients' ability to grow their own cannabis, the regulations fail to address the urgent issue of affordability for patients who are unable to do so," said Jonathan Zaid, Founder and Executive Director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana. "Time and time again the courts have ruled in favor of medical cannabis patients. It's about time Health Canada and the government actively listen and address the concerns of patients instead of continuing along with the litigious environment we have seen to date."
The 34 licensed medical marijuana growers in Canada are upset over the rule change. These producers, who serve nearly 60,000 patients, contend many home cannabis growers supply illegal storefront dispensaries. Even before the rule change, these illicit transactions have already exploded across Canada and compete with legal producers.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association is also disappointed with the regulation change by Health Canada. The Association believes that pharmacies should be granted the ability to legally dispense medical marijuana, something the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations law does not authorize. Instead of permitting patients to grow their own, it would make more sense to allow them to pick up cannabis at a local pharmacy.
The updated medical marijuana rules go into effect officially on August 24, but they are only temporary. Many expect to rewrite the regulations next year when Canada likely legalizes recreational cannabis nationwide.
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