By Anne Holland
After two years of research and debate, the Canadian Minister of Health has announced her department will propose new medical marijuana regulations on June 19, which are expected to be approved fairly quickly by the majority government. The new regulations would replace the current rules, which have been in place since 2001. Under the new regulations, neither the Canadian government’s own cultivation facilities nor home growers (including patients and caregivers) would be allowed to continue growing or distributing medical cannabis as of March 31. Instead, MMJ would only be grown by a network of officially licensed producers.
According to an unofficial government spokesperson MMJ Business Daily talked with today, these licensed producers would distribute medical cannabis via a secure delivery service (not via mail order or the postal service as other media have mistakenly reported). To receive MMJ, patients would be required to have a secure premises. Thus, the new supply chain would substantially limit access to marijuana in Canada.
These new measures are being proposed in part as a result of medical marijuana’s popularity. Back in 2001, only 500 Canadians were legally authorized patients. Today that number stands at more than 30,000. This has created a home grow boom, particularly as local police do not have access to the addresses of licensed home growers in their areas. The consequences range from an expanding recreational market never intended under current laws, to concerns about security, chemicals and even mold that affect both local growers and their neighbors.
On June 19, Health Canada is planning to post a licensed producer application form on its website. If the new regulations pass as expected, the current MMJ system will continue to be legal until March 31, as the new licensed producers and delivery system are set up. Patients would also have to re-apply for licenses. Then, on April 1, the new system would swing into complete effect and home grows would be illegal.
The business implications of this change could be significant for all suppliers targeting home grows and cultivation sites, such as companies that provide everything from hydroponics equipment to lights, seeds and fertilizers. It’s not completely clear how the new regulations could affect currently operating compassion centers or dispensaries, aside from forcing them to obtain license,which would in turn substantially change their current operational procedures.
It is also unknown how the change would affect US businesses, such as X-Change Corp, currently planning on expanding into the Canadian market, or how it would affect Canadian companies, such as Abattis Bioceuticals Corp., which are eying the American MMJ marketplace.
Canada’s experience, in particular the reportedly intense debate between the government and Canadian pharmacists over the new regulations (Health Canada had considered using pharmacies as an MMJ distribution channel, but the pharmacists lobbied against it), could influence American states as they form their own regulations.