THIS IS ONLY PART OF A VERY IMPORTANT CANADIAN DOCUMENT REGARDING THE GROWTH AND DISTRIBUTION OF MEDICAL CANNABIS. PLEASE GO TO THE LINK AND VIEW THE ENTIRE DOCUMENT!
Growth in Program participation has had unintended consequences for the administration of the MMAR, but more importantly, for public health, safety and security as a result of authorizing individuals to produce marihuana under PUPLs and DPPLs in private dwellings.
In 2002, 477 individuals were authorized to possess marihuana for medical purposes. As of August 13, 2012, this had grown to 21 986 individuals. If the Program continues to grow at this pace, it is estimated that by 2014, over 50 000 individuals will be authorized to possess marihuana for medical purposes.
One result of increased participation in the Program is increased application volume for Health Canada. This results in increased staffing costs, but more importantly, it results in a 10-week service standard for processing applications. Many Program participants have expressed concerns regarding the length of time it takes to obtain an authorization to possess.
Of 21 986 current Program participants, 13% access Health Canada’s supply of dried marihuana, 64% produce under a PUPL, and 16% produce under a DPPL. The remaining 7% indicate in their application that they will buy from Health Canada, but ultimately do not. Health Canada does not have access to information regarding where these Program participants obtain their supply of marihuana for medical purposes.
Increases in the number of licences, as well as the co-location of up to four licences on one site, can result in large quantities of marihuana being produced in homes and communities. In addition, the average daily amount has continually increased since 2002 to almost 10 g per day now which, if produced indoors, is approximately 49 plants. Under the MMAR, the number of plants that may be produced under a licence to produce is calculated based on the daily amount agreed upon by the medical practitioner and the applicant. Program participants who either produce their own or have designated producers are the group where the daily amount has increased the most. There are now approximately 70% who produce 25 plants or more.
Municipalities and first responders, such as fire and police officials, have raised serious public health and safety concerns regarding production of marihuana in private dwellings. Under the Program, applicants are not required to disclose their intent to produce to local authorities. Production sites, most often in private dwellings that are not constructed for large-scale horticultural production, are often in locations unknown by local authorities. Production activities are also linked to the presence of excess moisture in homes creating a risk of mould (particularly associated with drying of marihuana); electrical hazards creating a risk of fire; and exposure to toxic chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers creating risk to residents, including children. Such issues may not only have an impact on individual producers, but also potentially on those living at the same address, adjacent residential units, and/or in the surrounding community, who may not even suspect the existence of these risks. Because the MMAR were never intended to permit larger-scale marihuana production, they do not adequately address these public health, safety and security concerns. There are practical difficulties in imposing stringent quality and safety standards on production operation by producers of marihuana for medical purposes that may lack the capacity to implement them.
Police have also raised concerns that residential production activities leave the Program vulnerable to abuse, including criminal involvement and diversion to the illicit market, particularly given the attractive street value of marihuana ($10–$15/gram for dried marihuana). It is impossible to conduct effective inspection of the numerous production sites across the country, particularly given the legal requirement to either obtain permission, or a warrant, to enter a private dwelling. Finally, production in homes may leave residents and their neighbours vulnerable to violent home invasion by criminals who become aware that valuable marihuana plants are being produced and stored in the home.
Another implication of Program growth is an increase to the cost of producing and distributing dried marihuana for Health Canada. The existing supply contract has a value of $16.8 million (excluding GST) for a three-year period, ending on March 31, 2013. An additional option year has been built into the contract, and will need to be exercised. It is estimated that this additional year will cost Health Canada $9.7 million. These high contract costs are despite the fact that only a minority of Program participants indicate this supply option in their application. Health Canada heavily subsidizes the cost of marihuana for medical purposes by covering the shipping costs and charging only $5/gram, an amount substantially below the cost of production and distribution. The Government collected approximately $1,686,600 in revenue from sales of dried marihuana and seeds in the 2011–2012 fiscal year.
The objective of the proposed MMPR is to reduce the risks to public health, security and safety of Canadians, while significantly improving the way in which individuals access marihuana for medical purposes.
To reduce the risks to public health, security and safety of Canadians, a new supply and distribution system for dried marihuana that relies on commercial production of marihuana for medical purposes would be established. Security requirements would be in place for the production site and key personnel of the licensed producer. Standards for packaging, transportation and record keeping would contribute to achieving security objectives.
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 (a physician or, potentially, a nurse practitioner). Quality and sanitation standards appropriate for a product for medical use will be in place. In line with other controlled substances, personal and designated production would be phased out. This would reduce the health and safety risks to individuals and to the public while allowing for a quality-controlled and more secure product for medical use.
Health Canada would no longer receive and process applications or issue authorizations and licences, nor continue to produce and supply marihuana for medical purposes. Health Canada would not enter into future contractual arrangements for the production and distribution of marihuana for medical purposes. The new regulatory scheme returns Health Canada to its traditional role of regulator rather than producer and service provider, while striking a better balance between access and risks to public health and safety.
The proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations would authorize the following key activities:
- the possession of dried marihuana by individuals who have the support of an authorized health care practitioner to use marihuana for medical purposes;
- the production of dried marihuana by licensed producers only; and
- the direct sale and distribution of dried marihuana by specific regulated parties to individuals who are eligible to possess it.