OTTAWA – Revamped federal rules to allow Canadians to grow their own medical marijuana are likely to form part of the government’s overall plan for legalization of the drug, the federal justice minister says.
The new rules will allow people who have been authorized by their doctor to use medicinal cannabis to grow a limited amount of marijuana for their personal use, or designate someone else to grow it for them.
Those rules will be taken into account by a federal task force struck to craft recommendations on how to legalize recreational marijuana use, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said.
Rules and regulations around legalization are to be unveiled next spring.
“The regulations that were spoken today form part of the considerations that our task group on marijuana will consider,” Wilson-Raybould said after testifying before the Commons justice committee.
“Certainly how it is dispensed and how the process of legalizing marijuana will be considered fully and the legislation and the subsequent regulations will reflect that consideration.”
Under the new rules unveiled Thursday by Health Canada, authorized patients will be able to grow a specific number of plants based on their prescriptions and whether they are growing the plants indoors or outdoors.
Indoors, patients will be able to grow five plants per gram of dried product, and two plants per gram outdoors.
The new rules come into effect on Aug. 24.
The regulations are a response to a Federal Court decision earlier this year that found the ban on patients growing medical marijuana to be a violation of their constitutional rights.
The court gave the federal government six months to come up with a new regulations that would let patients grown their own cannabis for personal use.
Health Canada official told reporters that the government believes the new regulations provide reasonable access for patients to medical marijuana and address the issues raised in the court decision.
They also repeatedly said that dispensaries and compassion clubs that hand out marijuana are considered illegal operations and the only place to purchase medical marijuana is through one of the 34 licensed suppliers in Canada who serve some 70,000 clients.
Those licensed suppliers will, under the new rules, be a legal source for marijuana plants and seeds.
The parent company for one of the country’s best-known marijuana producers said the new rules are good news for those who want to grow at home, but the government failed to address problems that existed under the old rules: elevated diversion risks, abuse of plant limits and the inability of law enforcement to know legal from illegal cannabis.
“While we believe this is a short-term initiative, with a broader overhaul of cannabis policy expected in the coming months, it is still a setback for the advancement of sound cannabis policy and Canada’s global leadership in cannabis regulation,” Canopy Growth Corporation, the parent company of Tweed Inc., said in a statement.
Michael Haines, CEO of Mettrum Health Corp., said he didn’t expect the do-it-yourself growers to have an impact on his business.
“Medicinal marijuana is an evolving industry in Canada,” he said.
“It is a time of change and as a leading licensed producer we see change as opportunity — and see any focus on medical cannabis by regulators as positive.”
The Canadian Pharmacists Association said the government missed a chance to improve patient safety by not having its members be the sole dispensers of medical marijuana.
In a statement, the association said the Liberals should put their members at the centre of a new regime for legal access to recreational marijuana to “limit the emergence of a grey market and protect the medical system against abuse by recreational users.”