The latest from Health Canada on medical cannabis post-legalization

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Today, Health Canada released the details of feedback they received during their public consultation in regards to their proposed approach to the regulation of cannabis. While there is a lot of notable information in the report that you can read online here, we have outlined the highlights of the section on medical cannabis, as this is particularly of interest to our patients.

Consistent with the advice of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, the consultation paper proposed that a distinct system would be maintained to provide patients with reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes. The proposed regulations would continue to enable individuals who have the support of their healthcare practitioner (including those under 18 years of age) to access cannabis for medical purposes by:

  • purchasing from a federally-licensed seller of cannabis for medical purposes;
  • cultivating their own cannabis, if over the age of 18 (personal production); or
  • designating someone to grow cannabis on their behalf (designated production).

The consultation paper proposed that the medical access regulatory framework would remain substantively the same as it currently exists, with certain adjustments to: create consistency with rules for cannabis for non-medical purposes, improve patient access, and reduce the risk of abuse of the system. [Health Canada]

Highlights of public consultation:

  • Respondents were supportive of the proposed adjustments to improve patient access
  • High recommendations on having medical cannabis have Health Canada approval so that it is eligible for coverage under private health plans
  • Demand for medical cannabis being made available through other distribution options, like pharmacies
  • Recommendations that cannabis for medical purposes should not be held to the same mandatory health messages that recreational cannabis does


Health Canada appreciates the feedback that it has received from respondents on the regulatory proposals. Consistent with the advice of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, the Government of Canada has committed to monitor and evaluate patients’ reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes during the implementation of the proposed Cannabis Act, and evaluate the medical access framework within five years of the coming into force of the legislation.

As part of their response to the Health Canada consultation, many stakeholders took the opportunity to voice their opinion on a proposal to apply an excise duty to all cannabis products in Canada that was made as part of a separate consultation process conducted by the Department of Finance in the fall of 2017. Most respondents to the Health Canada consultation did not support applying an excise duty to cannabis sold for medical purposes, and also argued that cannabis for medical purposes should be exempt from the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST).

As announced in Budget 2018, the excise duty framework will generally apply to cannabis products that contain THC, the primary psychoactive compound of cannabis. Recognizing the non-addictive, potentially therapeutic role of low-THC cannabis oils, products that contain low amounts of THC will generally not be subject to the excise duty. Pharmaceutical products derived from cannabis will also be exempt, provided that the cannabis product has a Drug Identification Number and can only be acquired through a prescription.

[Health Canada]


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