On Tuesday, the Government of Canada announced the beginning of a consultation process to implement regulations pertaining to the country’s impending legalization of marijuana. But buried deep in the government-released consultation paper were some changes to the medical cannabis program that might make life easier for patients.
The current medical marijuana regime will largely stay in place, including the need for a doctor-signed medical document and couriered delivery of medical cannabis ordered online. But there are a few significant changes could alleviate some headaches for patients.
1. Patients will be able to transfer their medical document between Licensed Producers
Don’t like your Licensed Producer (LP)? Under the current rules, you need to go back to your doctor and obtain another medical recommendation for marijuana, and then send it your new licensed producer yourself because the old recommendation stays with the previous LP.
That process has become a huge hassle for patients, so the government is now trying to simplify the process. Under the proposed set of rules, licensed producers would have to send back the medical document to you if you cancel your registration, so you would also be able to transfer it to another licensed producer of your choosing.
“We very much welcome the proposed change for patients to be able to change licensed producers,” Jonathan Zaid of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana told Civilized. “It’s something we’ve been advocating now for a few years. We’re very pleased Health Canada has adopted it into their recommendations.”
2. The period-of-use won't be eaten up by registration delays
Health Canada is also proposing that an individual’s prescribed period of use would now start on the date the person actually becomes registered to obtain medical cannabis. Currently, the period of use starts on the date the doctor signed the document and lasts for up to 12 months max. That means a lot of time is wasted while the patient waits to for the registration to wrap up.
Changing the period-of-use start date would be particularly helpful in situations where an individual receives a short-duration medical document from their doctor and the licensed producer of their choosing is taking longer than usual to register the document.
Better yet, it appears this change would also apply to individuals who decide to send their medical document to Health Canada to register to cultivate cannabis themselves rather than obtaining their medical cannabis from an LP. Again, patients would get the most out of their cannabis recommendation because the period-of-use wouldn't be eaten up with waiting for Health Canada to finalize the registration.
“Given the delay patients face registering for personal production especially, but also sometimes in registering with an LP, that starting on the registration date makes sense and allows patients to obtain access during the time period they were authorized for,” Zaid told Civilized.
3. Removing the 30-day limitation
Finally, the government has proposed to remove the 30-day limitation period for the purchase of cannabis. Up until now, patients could only order roughly one month's worth of medication in a 30-day period. As a result, many ran out of medicine and had to wait on mail delays after finally being allowed to order the next month's supply.
The proposed regulations would remove the 30-day limitation period, which would give patients better access to their medicine.
“It was definitely something that some patients had issues with, [for example] with mail delivery delays,” Zaid says. “it now allows individuals to order what they need based on their prescription rather than worrying about that limit.”
Further reforms needed
There are still some changes that Zaid said he would like to see implemented, including retail access points such as pharmacies — like Shoppers Drug Mart — where medical cannabis could be dispensed.
But the revised regulations certainly make life a bit easier for medical marijuana patients in Canada.