Is Marijuana Legal in Canada? The Burning Question
Medical marijuana is slowly becoming globally accepted as medicine and most Canadians are asking the big question, “Is Marijuana Legal in Canada?” With Canadian marijuana laws rapidly changing, its been difficult for Canadian’s to sort through the information, often leaving many confused and not know where to get answers.
Luckily, The Green Doctor Network has put together this informative article to tell you the real story.
In today’s article, we are going to discuss the laws around medical marijuana 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.
Canada’s first law! Introducing the MMAR (2001)
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.
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.
Say Goodbye to Growing, Say Hello to Licensed Producers… MMPR (2014)
The MMAR was repealed and replaced by the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) which was enacted on April 1, 2014. This program allowed patients to possess dried marijuana flower/bud with a prescription issued by a practicing Canadian physician. A government issued license was no longer required. Licenses for patients to grow their own medicine were no longer being issued under this new regulation.
The Return of Private Growing… ACMPR (2016)
As of August 24, 2016 the MMPR was replaced with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation (ACMPR). This new regulation includes legislation that satisfied the 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 designate 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. Medicine is available for purchase online by over 30 Health Canada approved, licensed producers (LP). Additional 20+ companies have also been approved for production only and sell wholesale to those licensed to sell. Concentrates are not legal for sale to medical marijuana patients however Cannabis Oil is approved to be sold by authorized LP’s with some of them currently selling edible oil capsules.
Finally, Recreational Legalization is Here…The Cannabis Act (2018)
On April 13, 2017, a bill to legalize cannabis was introduced to Parliament. The proposed Cannabis Act would create a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada. According to the Government of Canada website the Act seeks to restrict youth access to cannabis, deter and reduce criminal activity, protect public health through strict product safety and quality requirements, reduce the burden on the criminal justice system, provide for the legal production of cannabis to reduce illegal activities, and allow adults to possess and access regulated, quality controlled legal cannabis.
The current program for accessing cannabis for medical purposes would continue under the new Act.
Although cannabis is legal for medical use it will still remain illegal for recreational use as the bill moves through the legislative process.
If it is approved by Parliament, the bill could become law with a target date of no later than July 2018. You can read more about The Cannabis Act in our latest post titled, Marijuana Legalization Canada.
Is Marijuana Legal in Canada?… A Final Word on 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!”