Although recreational cannabis legislation has seen delays in Canada (and may see more still), there are concerns among medical users about how legalization may affect them. In this post we’ll explore this issue based on what we know so far.
One of the most frequent concerns is supply issues. Although there will likely be shortages of cannabis overall upon legalization, many medical strains will not appeal to recreational users, and many Licensed Producers (LPs) have said they would maintain medical strains even if they branch into the recreational market. Other LPs have said that they would remain medical.
Medical cannabis users will be treated differently than recreational ones. Health Canada has committed to evaluating how a system of medical cannabis should function alongside the legalization of recreational cannabis. The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) was designed to provide an immediate solution to address the R. v. Smith and Allard v. Canada judgments, and should not be considered the final medical legislation. At the same time, the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Recommendation said that medical users should be protected with a separate framework to ensure monitoring, quality, reasonable affordability, and availability. One result is likely that medical cannabis will be cheaper than recreational, as the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) considers medical cannabis purchased with authorization to be an eligible medical expense. At the same time, LPs are lobbying the federal government to exempt medical products from sales tax. Further, medical cannabis seems more and more likely to be covered by private insurance plans, as Sun Life announced in early 2018 that they will cover it in Group Benefits Plans.
Lastly, provincial regulations will also differ in how they treat medical and recreational users. For example, Ontario’s proposed legislation – the ‘Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario, and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017’ – states that recreational cannabis can only be consumed in a private residence, not in public or workplaces. Conversely, those authorized for medical cannabis will be subject to the same rules as tobacco smoking and e-cigarette use, meaning that they will not be allowed to smoke or vape medical cannabis in enclosed workplaces, public places, in motor vehicles, and other smoke-free places, with a few exceptions. However, the use of medical cannabis through other consumption methods is permitted.
Overall, medical and recreational cannabis legislation will continue to evolve in Canada for some time. There are existing and ongoing efforts to protect authorized medical users which should address supply and affordability concerns. As always, patient educators at Hello Cannabis are available to help with any questions you may have about the safe and legal use of medical cannabis.
Collier, R. 2016. How will pot legalization affect medical marijuana?. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 188(11), 792-793.
Foisy R. 2017. How the Possible Upcoming Legalization of Marijuana May Affect Medical Marijuana Users. Roger R Foisy: https://www.injurylawyercanada.com/blog/how-the-possible-upcoming-legalization-of-marijuana-may-affect-medical-marijuana-users/
Government of Canada. 2018. Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (SOR/2016-230). Justice Laws: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2016-230/
Government of Canada. 2016. Understanding the New Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations. Health Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/drugs-health-products/understanding-new-access-to-cannabis-for-medical-purposes-regulations.html
Government of Ontario. 2018. Cannabis legalization. Government of Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/cannabis-legalization