The Canadian government has announced new rules that will allow people to once again grow marijuana at home for medical purposes. The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations will come into force on 24th August and will allow patients who have been authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes to grow a limited amount of marijuana. They will also have the option to designate someone to produce it for them, rather than buying it from a Health Canada licensed marijuana producer.
To prove that the citizens are indeed using it for medical purposes, individuals should obtain a document similar to a prescription from a licensed health practitioner. Patients will only be allowed to start growing marijuana legally once they have registered with Health Canada and received a registration certificate specifying their authorized production limits. On 31st March, over 53,000 medical marijuana users registered with Health Canada. The average authorized marijuana amount was 2.8 grams for each user.
Canada has already allowed to grow marijuana for medical purposes once before. In 2001, Canada put in place the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, and became the first country to legally allow growth and use of marijuana for personal use by individuals with serious medical conditions and serious illnesses.
In June 2013, however, Canada’s then government enacted the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations that required patients to acquire cannabis from licensed producers instead of growing their own, and in 2014 the Regulations were repealed. This move enabled commercial producers for the production and distribution of distribution of “quality controlled marijuana grown under secure and sanitary conditions”, but four patients criticized these laws saying they were unconstitutional. The federal court seemed to agree with them and on 24th February it annulled the 2013 Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, saying that the rules violated patients’ charter rights. The new government was given six months to fix the conundrum.
The new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations will give qualified users affordable access to marijuana. Registered users can continue to order dried cannabis from Canada’s 34 licensed commercial producers. “Dispensaries” and “compassion clubs” that sell cannabis are still illegal, however. The Canadian government also introduced stricter labelling requirements for fresh and dried marijuana and cannabis oils, and advised practical tips to uphold the safety and security of individuals cultivating marijuana for medical purposes.
Recent studies have backed the claim of marijuana’s positive effects on health. A new study conducted by researchers Ashley Bradford and W David Bradford at the University of Georgia has found that medical marijuana laws reduce prescription drug use in Medicare Part D, the policy section that deals with subsidizing the costs of prescription drugs and prescription drug insurance premiums for Medicare users. The researchers identified nine conditions for which medical marijuana has evidence of efficacy in treatment—including anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and pain—and compared overall prescriptions for other existing drugs in states where medical marijuana is legal compared to states where it is illegal. They also analyzed Medicare Part D spending in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
According to Canada’s Health Minister Jane Philpott, the Liberal government is trying to decriminalize and regulate recreational marijuana by spring of 2017. Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, said during last year’s election that he will follow in the footsteps of the US states of Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana. Philpott spoke earlier this year, on 20th April, at a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York which looked at the world’s drug problems. He said that the Canadian law will ensure marijuana is kept away from children and will prevent criminals from making profits from illegal cannabis sales.
If Canada manages to make marijuana legal, it will be only the second country to completely legalize marijuana, after Uruguay. Although countries such as Spain and the Netherlands have relaxed marijuana policies, these countries still haven’t made cannabis completely legal.
If Canada is able to make marijuana legal, it will do so following reproval of three major international drug treaties: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Drugs of 1971, and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988. These treaties are meant to prevent international trafficking of illicit substances and clearly disregard recreational use and sale of illicit substances.
It will be the first major developed nation to go against these laws despite these laws having met their fair share of criticism from drug advocates and liberal policymakers. Many do believe that this move has been a result of the failure of war on drugs. A 2014 study from Harold Pollack from University of Chicago and Peter Reuter from University of Maryland found that there’s no evidence that suggests tougher laws and strict punishments will curb drug use compared to lenient punishments. So implementing tougher methods to eliminate drug distribution doesn’t help in restricting drug use.
Canada will be open to much criticism, especially from the US despite four of its states legalizing marijuana. The Canadian government still deems marijuana illegal, but it will open the door for many other liberal countries to move towards a more open-minded approach towards marijuana use.