Canada’s initiative to decriminalize marijuana is focused on terminally ill patients who benefit from the use of medical marijuana to relieve unbearable symptoms of chronic and terminal illnesses. The Marijuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) lists specific rules for Canadians to follow.
The (MMAR) gives the Canadian health care system a legal method to regulate individuals who use, cultivate, or store marijuana for medical purposes. The regulations are a result of an Ontario Court of Appeals ruling in 2000 that mandated the Canadian government to create new regulations within the year that focused on the medical marijuana issue. The court order included a stipulation aimed at getting the Canadian government to move on this issue. Basically the courts said that if the Canadian government had not completed the task of setting up regulations for the use of marijuana for medical purposes within the year then the Ontario courts would not prosecute as illegal the use, growth, or storage of marijuana. This clear message from the court was the first step in creating the MMAR. By 2001, the new medical marijuana regulations were in effect.
Research into the benefits of medical marijuana by modern scientists began in the 1800′s and William Brooke O’Shaughnessy of the Medical College in Calcutta is credited with the first research and introduction of the healing properties of marijuana to the Western medical community. For the remainder of the 19th Century, the plant was widely used in Western countries as a medicine for pain relief, muscle spasms, and stomach cramps. During this time it was effective in relieving many symptoms of chronic illness. Even though research continued to show the medicinal benefits of using the plant, new laws were beginning to be enacted in many countries that focused on the use of illegal drugs. Marijuana became one of the drugs encompassed by these new rules and regulations and as a result the ability to use it for medical purposes was taken away by governments that wanted to curb the use of illegal drugs by its citizens.
By eliminating the right to use marijuana legally, it became a black market product. Even though it was key to the relief of many debilitating symptoms of chronic and terminal illnesses, these laws made it illegal to use, grow, or store the plant even for personal use. Even possession of the plant was illegal. Such was the result of the criminalization of marijuana.
Now that the MMAR is in effect, the use of medical marijuana has been decriminalized. Marijuana has not been legalized however, and continues to be illegal to anyone without the proper license or authorization from the Canadian government.
The MMAR was created to regulate the growing, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. The regulations are broken down into different segments that describe the rules to follow for users, growers, storage facilities, and access to the drug through the Canadian health care system. Each segment provides direction for how a person can get get licensed, license renewals, and the amounts of medical marijuana that can be in possession at any one time. The latest statistics kept by the Canadian government (July 2008). show there are 1476 physicians authorized to prescribe the drug, while the number of Canadians authorized to possess, grow, or store it is 2812.
Medical Marijuana Users
The regulations state that an application must be made to the Canadian government, which includes personal information and identification. An authorization from a medical professional must accompany the license request, which states the types of ailments and the benefits that may be realized by the patient. The regulations also give the procedures for authorized users to follow when confronted by authorities who are inquiring about their use of the drug. All the steps involved in obtaining and maintaining a medical marijuana authorization is listed in the MMAR, and the Canadian government is bound to follow those rules until changed by new regulations or laws.
The grower must make an application to the Canadian government with complete identification papers and plans for growing medicinal marijuana for the Canadian health care system and individual patients. Even though Canada has its own government-controlled herb growing company it is possible for private citizens to grow marijuana under the new regulations.
A plan for production and outlets for disposal must be included in the application so that the growing of the drug can be regulated and the quantity of drug can be monitored. For each license to grow medical marijuana, a limit to the amount a grower can produce is set. A license to grow medicinal marijuana does not give a grower the right to grow as much as they want. The quantity of drug produced must match the distribution points authorized by the Canadian government. All the steps in cultivation are monitored and tracked according to the new MMAR laws. The Canadian health care system is partly responsible for working with government agencies to insure that the regulations do not create a larger illegal marijuana problem by having legal growers producing too much of the drug which might find its way into the illegal markets.
The MMAR also has rules for the storage of marijuana destined for the medical community. An application must be made to the Canadian government that lists personal identification of the owner of the storage property, the property description, and the routes that the drug will take to final disposal.
While one patient may obtain the right to do all three of the regulated acts, individuals may also be able to lawfully grow or store the plant even without the right to consume it. The Canadian government took the most appropriate steps in creating rules that could be easily followed by authorized individuals pertaining to the use of medical marijuana. Now that the MMAR is in effect in Canada, other countries are looking into similar federal regulations to oversee the use of medical marijuana by their own citizens.
Beverly Hansen OMalley is a nurse who is passionate about health promotion. Visit www.registered-nurse-canada.com where Bev explores the uniqueness of the nursing profession in Canada including comparison of nurse salary across the country, preparation for the Canadian nursing entrance test and how to become a nurse in Canada if you graduated in another country.