What You Need to Know About Medical Cannabis Reform in Canada

Medical cannabis patients in Canada have benefitted from important regulatory changes since the end of federal prohibition; changes that have generally gone unnoticed by those outside of the medical community. These new laws generally have to do with how patients can access medical cannabis, both from retailers and through growing plants for personal use. Some changes to federal cannabis research protocols are also worth noting.

Many of the changes are effectively transparent, meaning they simply extend the benefits of the federal policy on recreational cannabis to medical applications. For example, national legalization meant provincially authorized cannabis retailers for recreational cannabis sales could benefit medical cannabis patients as well. The extended Cannabis 2.0 movement means waxes, concentrates, edibles, and other extracts are now options for medical cannabis patients too.

Improvements in Supply and Licensing

Repealing federal prohibition has, not surprisingly, led to a boom in licensed producers and sellers. Health Canada has provided more cannabis licenses in just the past year than it has in the previous four combined. Not only does this help shore up supply and create a more competitive market, but it provides plenty of opportunities for patients and their doctors to find new and better treatment options.

Ensuring availability to patients is a key focus of these updated laws. For example, patients can bypass the 30-day limitation period for buying cannabis from a federally licensed source—a restriction waived to ensure no interruption to a patient’s medical supply. Health Canada has similarly waived the waiting periods placed on growing your own cannabis (or designating someone to grow it for you).

Health Canada has made it simple to take advantage of these new benefits by granting them to everyone who is already registered under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). For new patients and current patients alike, that means that if you already have your ACMPR card, there’s nothing else you need to do.

Changes to Cannabis Research

The lift of federal prohibition also opens some important opportunities for cannabis research. This includes a review of Health Canada’s policies for the drug review and approval process, meaning Canadians will have better access to treatments and more options as well.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is also launching a series of new research into cannabis and cannabinoids. This includes testing for new treatment possibilities and therapeutic benefits of cannabis and its component compounds, as well as broader research into the trends and use patterns of medicinal cannabis.

This new research also includes the important work of investigating adverse effects of cannabis consumption, both for recreational and medicinal purposes. These findings will help paint a more comprehensive picture of cannabis and its role in society, including its medical potential. These recent rule changes are strong evidence that the medical needs of Canadian citizens will continue to be front and center in policymakers’ minds, even if the rules themselves are not often in the spotlight.

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