Cannabis for medical purposes under the Cannabis Act: information and improvements

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Access to cannabis for medical purposes

The Cannabis Act came into force on October 17, 2018.  Since that date, new regulations have replaced the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).

Some changes have been made to improve patient access.

Patients authorized by their health care provider are still able to access cannabis for medical purposes by:

Subject to the legal age limit in their province or territory, they are also able to buy cannabis:

  • at provincial or territorial authorized retail outlets
  • through provincial or territorial authorized online sales platforms

For those accessing cannabis for medical purposes from a federally licensed seller

Under the new regulations there are improvements for patients accessing cannabis for medical purposes from federally licensed sellers.

These improvements include:

  • the ability to request the return of their medical document from a federally licensed seller
  • the ability to request the transfer of their medical document to a different federally licensed seller
  • that the effective date on the registration document will be the day it is issued, rather than the day the medical document was signed by the health care provider
  • removal of the 30-day limitation period for buying cannabis from a federally licensed seller (to ensure no break in a patient's supply)
  • a broader range of permitted products
  • access to an increasing number of licensed producers and sellers (Health Canada has licensed more producers in the last year than in the 4 previous years combined). The increasing number of licensed producers enables:
    • competitive prices
    • more supply of cannabis
    • an increased availability of a range of products

For those registered with Health Canada to produce their own cannabis for medical purposes or who are designating someone to do it for them

Under the new regulations, patients continue to be able to register with Health Canada to produce their own cannabis or designate someone to produce it for them. Improvements for these patients include that:

  • the effective date on the registration document is the day it is issued, rather than the day the medical document was signed by the health care provider
  • the registration remains valid until a renewal decision has been made, if Health Canada has received a renewal application before your certificate expires

Impact of the Cannabis Act on registered patients

Patients registered under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) do not need to do anything at this time.

Your current registration has:

  • transitioned automatically to the Cannabis Act and new regulations
  • kept its existing expiry date (unless your registration is cancelled for other reasons)

If your registration for personal (or designated) production is expiring soon, please submit your renewal application and medical document at least 8 weeks before expiry.

Possession and personal storage limits under the Cannabis Act

The new regulations remove personal storage limits for patients. Like any adult Canadian, they can store as much cannabis as they want at home.

Public possession limits remain the same for authorized patients who are registered with a federally licensed seller or with Health Canada:

  • The lesser of 150 grams or a 30-day supply of dried cannabis (or the equivalent in cannabis product) in addition to the 30 grams allowed for non-medical purposes

Those authorized to access cannabis for medical purposes must be prepared to show they are legally allowed to possess more than 30 grams (or equivalent) in public, if requested by law enforcement. This can be done by showing:

  • Their registration document issued by a federally licensed seller
  • Their registration certificate issued by Health Canada for personal or designated production
  • Their registration certificate issued by Health Canada for possession only
    • This new registration for possession only is available to meet the needs of those choosing to access their supply of cannabis for medical purposes exclusively from a provincial or territorial authorized retail outlet or authorized online sales platform  

Other improvements and benefits for patients

Other benefits to patients include that:

  • Health Canada has committed to evaluate the drug review and approval process so Canadians in need have better access to a range of medicinal options
  • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is investing significantly in research on cannabis and cannabinoids including, but not limited to, research related to use for medical purposes Health Canada will also be collecting and monitoring data from various cannabis surveys to better understand:
    • trends
    • use patterns
    • impacts for individuals who use cannabis for medical purposes 
  • Health Canada continues to report on scientific literature with respect to:
    • potential therapeutic uses of cannabis for medical purposes
    • adverse effects
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