Is Marijuana Legal in Canada?
Medical marijuana is slowly becoming globally accepted as medicine and most Canadians are asking the big question, “Is Marijuana Legal in Canada?” You may be surprised to find out that Canada was actually the first nation to legalize marijuana for medical use back in 2001 after the Canadian Court of Appeal declared medical marijuana prohibition unconstitutional. However, marijuana for recreational use still remains illegal with Uruguay becoming the first nation to claim that achievement when it passed regulation in 2014 that allowed residents to purchase, grow, and possess limited amounts.
The Past: Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR)
The original regulation that allowed patients to access medical marijuana in Canada was enacted in 2001 and called the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR). This regulation allowed patients to possess dried marijuana flower/bud with a license issued by the Government with the application being signed off by a physician. A single strain of medicine was available for purchase from a single government supplier but optional licenses were available for patients to grow their own plants or to designate a grower to supply medicine to them. This allowed patients to obtain various strains whose characteristics could be better matched to a patients condition. This regulation was limited to patients that fell under two distinct classification schedules which covered only the most severe and extreme conditions and excluded some very common but still debilitating conditions and symptoms. The application process itself was complicated and lengthy and total patients nationwide, peaked at about 38,000 by the time the MMAR came to a close in March of 2014.
The Present: Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR)
The MMAR was repealed and replaced by the current Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) which was enacted on April 1, 2014. The current program allows patients to possess dried marijuana flower/bud with a prescription issued by a practising Canadian physician. A government issued license is no longer required. Medicine is available from over 30 Health Canada approved, licensed producers (LP). Edibles and concentrates are not legal for sale to medical marijuana patients however Cannabis Oil has been recently approved to be sold by authorized LP’s.
As of August 24, 2016 the MMPR will be replaced with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation (ACMPR). This new regulation includes legislation that satisfies the latest Supreme Court decision to allow patients who possess a prescription from a doctor to grow their own medicine. Patients who choose to grow their own medicine can grow it themselves or designated a grower to grow it for them. The maximum limit is 5 outdoor plants or 2 indoor plants but the number of plants is determined by a formula that is based on the prescribed amount from the doctor. Patients must register with Health Canada in order to obtain a license to grow their own medicine.
The Future: Decriminalization or Legalization
The current Canadian Government has officially recommend legalization and regulation of marijuana for recreational use. There is legislation being drafted that will allow marijuana to be sold in a similar way to alcohol, through the various provincial liquor control boards retail outlets. Some larger pharmaceutical retailers like Shoppers Drug Mart are applying for retail licenses to sell medical marijuana as well. If legalization or decriminalization finally takes place, Canadians will no longer be asking, “Is marijuana legal in Canada?”
The grey area: Dispensaries
Dispensaries are operating within a grey area of the law. Under the current regulation dispensaries are operating illegally since only licensed producers are allowed to sell marijuana to patients however any time a dispensary is brought to trial the courts have not been convicted and thus leaving the dispensaries to operate with no real risk of conviction for their illegal activity. It should be noted that dispensaries do not sell regulated product from licensed producers and patients who choose to purchase medicine from a dispensary is doing so at the risk of possible contamination from pests, pesticides, fertilizers, heavy metals, and pathogens.
So the next time someone asks you the question “Is marijuana legal in Canada?”, you can answer them with a resounding, “Yes!”