Medical Marijuana Laws in Canada

Updated on June 28, 2021.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Although recreational marijuana will be available in September 2018, patients should still keep the country’s medical laws mind. You may want to get marijuana medicine before you can buy cannabis recreationally, or you might want to understand your rights as a patient. Either way, we can walk you through the basics.

Medical Marijuana Use Laws in Canada

Canada first legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and passed the Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR) in 2001. MMAR let patients get cannabis medicine by growing it at home, having a caregiver grow it or buying it from Health Canada. In 2013, the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) replaced MMAR to add a network of licensed producers and prohibit personal growing licenses.

In 2016, Canada revised the MMPR, changing them to the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). The ACMPR provides patients with the options to grow their own cannabis or buy it from a producer.

How Canada’s Medical Marijuana Program Works

To join Canada’s medical marijuana program, a patient must get authorization from their doctor to use cannabis for certain symptoms. The symptoms generally involve severe and chronic illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and terminal illnesses. Before applying for marijuana medicine, the patient must have tried standard treatments that haven’t worked.

Now that the ACMPR gives patients further options for acquiring medication, they can get it from a variety of sources. They can legally obtain cannabis medicine from sources like medical practitioners, self-production and licensed producers. However, they can only use a recommendation for one source at a time.

Marijuana Criminalization in Canada

Canadian patients won’t have access to adult use marijuana until July 2018, so anyone who uses it without a medical marijuana certificate uses it illegally. Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, possessing marijuana is a criminal offense — you don’t even have to use or own it for it to be a crime.

And patients who do have a medical marijuana certificate must follow certain possession limits. They can possess up to a 30-day supply of up to 150 grams of dried marijuana. A patient can’t use any form of marijuana besides the plant itself or cannabis oil.

Legal Limitations of Canada’s Medical Marijuana Program

While Canada has put a lot of consideration into their medical marijuana laws, they still limit access to only certain kinds of patients. For instance, people who don’t have a medical condition listed under the law must rely entirely on their doctor’s judgment. Not to mention, people who don’t have any marijuana-friendly doctors in the area must travel long distances to get assessed.

Additionally, the law only allows access to dry bud, fresh bud and cannabis oil, leaving out other types of medication that could help patients more effectively. With recreational legalization will probably come more products, but patients using them wouldn’t be able to use potential program benefits.

Protections for Canadian Patients and Doctors

According to the ACMPR, medical marijuana patients receive no extra protections from legal persecution. Patients taking cannabis medicine must still follow the laws listed in the Narcotic Control Regulations, unless they conflict with the ACMPR. So, patients can’t get prosecuted for legally possessing their medicine, but the ACMPR offers no explicit protections.

The same principles apply to medical practitioners who recommend medical marijuana. Doctors can provide and authorize medical marijuana, but they still must follow the Narcotic Control Regulations unless the ACMPR says otherwise.

Patients and doctors concerned about legal prosecution should carefully read the ACMPR to determine what they can legally do.

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Canada is at a turning point for medical and recreational marijuana, so these laws may change soon. To stay up to date with the latest medical marijuana news worldwide, follow our blog. We post about current events in the world of medical marijuana and provide health and lifestyle tips.

Resources for Medical Marijuana Patients in Canada