After a decade-long battle, Health Canada has announced its
intention to get out of the business of supplying medicinal
marijuana to Canadians. On December 15, 2012, Health Canada
published the proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes
Regulations (MMPR) in the Canada Gazette. The MMPR are
intended to replace the current Marihuana Medical Access
Regulations (MMAR) in the spring of 2013, and will
dramatically change how medicinal marihuana is accessed and
produced in Canada.
Introduced in 2001, the current MMAR were intended to comply
with an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which held that the
prohibition on the possession of marihuana violated the right to
liberty and security of a person under the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms. Under the current system, Canadians with a
serious illness who are authorized to possess dried marihuana for
their own personal medical use can obtain their marihuana either by
producing their own supply, by designating an individual to produce
it on their behalf, or by purchasing dried marihuana from Health
Canada. However, many concerns about the current program have been
expressed by various stakeholders. Production of marihuana in
private dwellings has drawn the ire of police, has raised public
health, safety and security issues, while growth in program
participation has had unintended administrative consequences (such
as delay in issuance of “personal use production
licences”). Also, some participants have complained about the
efficacy of the sole marihuana strain available through Health
Canada’s official producer.
Under the proposed MMPR, supply and distribution of
dried marihuana would rely on commercial production of marihuana
for medical purposes. The MMPR would establish the
conditions for a competitive industry of licensed producers which
would offer individuals access to dried marihuana for medical
purposes, produced under secure and sanitary conditions.
Security requirements would be in place for the production
site and key personnel of the licensed producer and standards for
packaging, transportation and record keeping would contribute to
achieving security objectives.
In addition, the process for individuals to access marihuana for
medical purposes would no longer require applying to Health Canada.
Individuals would be able to obtain marihuana, of any strain
commercially available, with information similar to a prescription
from an authorized health care practitioner. New personal use
production licences would not be issued, and all licences to
produce would end on March 31, 2014.
The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (“RIAS”)
forecasts that the expansion of the legal marihuana supply industry
could grow to more than $1.3 billion per year in annual sales by
the end of the forecast period (2024). Although the
government’s cost-benefit analysis suggest that the
government, and ultimately, the Canadian taxpayer, will benefit
from this regulatory change through reductions in administration
costs, the RIAS also suggests that the change will result in higher
prices for medicinal marijuana users due mostly to the shift from
cheaper home production to a more regulated commercial market. The
estimated increase in price, from $1.80-$5.00/g to about $7.60/g in
2014, and rising to about $8.80/g, is expected to lead to a
decrease in the relative number of legal users by about 30% over
the 10-year projection period.
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