A Critical Look at the proposed changes to the Medical Marijuana Access Program

Problems with the MMPR Changes

Details regarding the changes to the Medical Marijuana Programme can be found here: ,

The problems associated with the proposed changes to the Medical Marihuana Programme by the Ministry of Health are countless, although you could be forgiven for not noticing at first. The changes, in the language put forward by Leona Agglkuk (Minister of Health) might seem relatively harmless, if not downright reasonable,  to the average reader.

However, the problem lies within the details.  According to the Ministry of Health:

The Government will no longer produce and distribute marihuana for medical purposes, opening up the market to companies which meet strict security requirements. Production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety. Health care practitioners will be able to sign a medical document similar to a prescription, and then patients can purchase the appropriate amount from an authorized vendor. The new system would cut red tape for individuals and ensure that they have access to marihuana for medical purposes produced under quality controls while streamlining the process for applicants and health care practitioners.

Firstly, these proposals completely ignore one of the widespread and documented problem that medical cannabis patients have: finding a doctor willing to prescribe medical cannabis. The “red-tape” the Ministry of Health refers to is the reluctance medical doctors have in prescribing cannabis to patients, for fear of losing their insurance and facing possible prosecution. The Canadian Medical Association issued a statement in 2011 saying:

And, “the [CMA] recommends that physicians not participate in the dispensing of medical marijuana under the existing Medical Marihuana Access Regulations”.

“Until the problems with MMAR (Medical Marihuana Access Regulations) are rectified […] physicians who wish to authorize the use of marijuana should consult relevant CMPA policy and guidelines […] to ensure medico-legal protection.”

It is, interestingly, the comments regarding the cost of the MMPR from the Health Ministry that are the most troubling. The Health Ministry claims, “The current Marihuana Medical Access Program costs Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars each year. The $5/gram Health Canada charges to program participants who choose to purchase from the department is heavily subsidized.” However a recent study into the actual costs of cannabis production estimate the cost of producing one (1) pound  of cannabis at $225.

$225/lb roughly translates to $0.50 per gram, including the costs of rent, lighting and processing cannabis. Given the $5/gram price charged to patients, the cost of this program seems incredibly minor, given the benefit enjoyed by patients. In addition, the Government ignores that the cost for growers that are patients, or have designated an individual to grow for them, is actually bared by the growers themselves.

In addition, the proposed changes by Health Canada would mandate that all vendors distributing medical cannabis do so by mail. Not only does this introduce further red-tape for patients, it has a number of other seriously negative affects for Canada’s 26,000+ medical cannabis users.

Cannabis Dispensaries provide a number of beneficial services to the community, because many of them also act as (self)subsidized wellness centers for their members. Services provided (at no cost to the federal government) include: acupuncture, massage therapy, nutritional and health counselling and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). Under the new Health Canada guidelines for medical cannabis, these dispensaries and the services they provide to the community would no longer exist.

Futhermore, the Health Canada changes have an adverse affect on the poor. If one is  currently homeless (without a mailing address) or even just without a long-term fixed address, it will not be possible to obtain medicine reliably under the new regulations. Likewise, even if one were moving between residences, the prospect of obtaining a steady supply of medicine would become far more burdened with the “red-tape” the government claims to be reducing.

These measures don’t make Canadians safer. They are not in the public interest. The only beneficiaries seem to the the organized criminal organizations would will be flooded with new customers whose local/provincial doctors regulations will no longer get them the medicine they need under the new Health Canada rules for access.  This is a purely ideological attack by the Conservative Party on some of the most marginalized, sick and in pain citizens in Canada.

It’s poor public policy. It’s not pragmatic. And it certainly isn’t Canadian.

Contact your local MP and voice your opposition: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC
Protest the Health Canada changes to medical cannabis access: http://www.hempology.ca/protest/

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