Marijuana has been legal in Canada for just a few years now. It has definitely been a work in progress and remains very much a work in progress. Canada has been the test pilot for how to distribute legal cannabis to an entire nation. From product shortages to poor quality products, recreational cannabis in Canada remains an unpolished moon rock. So what about Medical Marijuana? Is there still a market for it? Is it separate from recreational cannabis? What conditions qualify you for medical cannabis? What is medical marijuana used for? Let’s roll up a focused orientated sativa and dive into everything about Medical Marijuana.
When cannabis was legalized in Canada on October 17, 2018 the sound of BIC lighters and burning Zig Zag papers could be heard across the country. A long overdue law had finally been passed which meant you could no longer be criminally charged for cannabis use, the recreational cannabis community celebrated while the already established medical marijuana community questioned what was next for them. This has been a hot-knife of a debate since legalization came into play, the government has stated they will continue with the medical marijuana system along side the recreational system and do a complete overview in 5 years. The Canadian Medical Association has asked that the medical system be phased out, while the Canadian Nurses Association has asked for them to remain separate. One argues that physicians are uncomfortable prescribing medical marijuana citing the lack of research and evidence of effectiveness, the other argues that the specific needs of the medical users will be lost to the already struggling recreational industry and that their medicinal needs can’t be meet. Like most government run initiatives, this is going to be a very slow burning process which will no doubt be decided in years to come. Before we jump into the details surrounding medical cannabis let’s take a look at where it all started here in Canada.
History of Cannabis in Canada
Cannabis prohibition first began in 1923 when cannabis was added to the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, it was added with no debate or evidence that cannabis had any physical or mental effects, with politicians simply adding it the act with no known documented reason. Nine years later parliament finally debated marijuana in Canada for the first time, specifically the manufacturing, sale and distribution of medicines containing small quantities of banned drugs. The debate resulted in parliament allowing small quantities of cannabis and hemp to be used in medicine. Five years on from that, the U.S. government and media depicted cannabis as a mind-altering and life-destroying drug. This saw Canada prohibit Canadians from growing cannabis without a permit, the government then destroyed all marijuana crops grown for research by the department of agriculture. Fast forward a couple decades to 2000 where the Ontario Court of Appeal struck down a complete ban on medical marijuana because they deemed unconstitutional and it violates the Charter Of Rights and Freedom. This led to Liberal health minister Allan Rock introducing new regulations to allow people with certain conditions access to medical marijuana. In 2015 Prime Minister Trudeau claimed he would work on legalizing marijuana if elected as Prime Minister. In 2017 the Liberals would win a majority government. Six months after being elected, Trudeau introduced marijuana legalization legislation, Bill C-45. After passing the Bill C-45 through the senate, the bill is given Royal Assent in June 2018. This led to October 17, 2018 being the day recreational marijuana became officially legalized in Canada. For more info on the basics of cannabis read out Very Basics Of Cannabis and What It Is article.
Medical vs Recreational Cannabis
What’s the difference?
Before The Cannabis Act was implemented on October 17, 2018 there was the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). The ACMPR allowed for individuals to purchase medicinal cannabis through a designated licensed producer, grow their own personal supply of medicinal cannabis or designate someone to grow for them. Through ACMPR individuals consult with their physician to gain access to medical marijuana for specific ailments that meet certain criteria. Once you are given medical documentation you are allowed to register with licensed producer to obtain dried cannabis or cannabis oil. When purchasing from licensed producers a patient is allowed up to a 30 day supply or 150 grams of dried marijuana flower. If a medical cannabis user wants to to grow their own plants they would have to submit an application to Health Canada to be approved for growing in a specific area, with the allowance of up to 5 indoor plants and 2 outdoor plants. Pretty complex eh? Well those days or rigorous procedures for getting recreational cannabis are a thing of the past. Once The Cannabis Act was passed the ACMPR was absorbed into The Cannabis Act. but no changes were made to the previous medical cannabis laws. Meaning you can still apply and gain access to the medical cannabis system still in place through Health Canada.
Buying Medical Cannabis VS Recreational Cannabis
Like the famous Thai saying “same, same but different” is the best way to describe medical cannabis vs recreational cannabis.
Buying recreational cannabis in Canada varies by province, especially the rules and regulations. In both Quebec and Alberta the legal age to purchase recreational cannabis is 18 years old, where the legal age in the rest of the provinces and territories is 19. Each province offers cannabis to be purchased online through provincial government run stores, each store prices their available cannabis accordingly plus their own provincial taxes. Each province is also slowly rolling out cannabis brick and mortar stores in each Canadian city. Provinces have the final say on if those stores will be privately owned or run by the government. Recreational cannabis stores offer a variety of dried cannabis and limited amount of tincture oils, with edibles and concentrates coming later on. Each store is required to meet a certain set of health standards to ensure the cannabis they are selling is safe for consumers. All products go through a rigorous quality assurance and labeling process, to avoid misuse of certain chemicals and selling tainted weed. All cannabis that is purchased through a regulated government store is purchased directly from Health Canada approved licensed providers. A important thing to note is that recreational cannabis stores are not allowed to provide advice when it comes to the therapeutic benefits their cannabis strains can provide, you need to do your own research prior to visiting the store to know what might help with your specific needs.
Now let’s turn our attention to buying cannabis through the medical route. When purchasing cannabis with a medical licence you are only permitted to buy from specific licensed producers, which has been approved by Health Canada. This is where medical cannabis has its benefits over recreational cannabis. Purchasing medical cannabis is cheaper then purchasing it through a recreational outlet as some licensed producers offer compassionate pricing to ensure those who need cannabis can get the medication they need. Medical cannabis can also be tax deductible and can also be covered by your insurance provider since it is a diagnosed medicine for a legitimate medical condition. You also are provided a much more in-depth service when purchasing medical cannabis. During your purchasing process you are provided with a personalized treatment plan, this helps you pick the correct strain for your specific medical needs and also the proper dosage amount for how much you should be taking.
At the end of the day both recreational and medical cannabis comes from the same source in a licensed producer. However medical cannabis patients are provided a more detailed and medically approached experience with doctors being involved in the cannabis patients consume to ensure optimal results.
How To Access Medical Marijuana
If you are someone who feels that they need marijuana for medical purposes and that recreational cannabis isn’t providing enough relief for your ailments, you can apply to get your medical marijuana from a Health Canada approved licensed producer. Here we will outline the steps you need to take to apply for medical marijuana access and to better understand what medical marijuana is used for.
There are multiple options to become a medical cannabis patient, each way contains several steps that will take time and effort. There is no one-size fits all, each individual experience will be different.
This is the first and arguably the most important step you need to take when trying to access medical marijuana. First and foremost you want to start the conversation with your doctor. You will need to explain to your physician why you think you need access to medical cannabis and what their process are for prescribing or recommending medical cannabis is. Every practitioner is different and may have their own opinions and thoughts, there is always a chance your physician will say no to prescribing cannabis for medical purposes.
One your health care professional has approved cannabis use for medical purposes, they will write you a prescription outlining how much cannabis they feel you need on a regular basis. Once you have your prescription you can now choose a licensed producer directly from the Health Canada website that you will purchase your cannabis from. Registration forms are available on the website of a licensed producer or by contacting them directly, contact the licensed producer you wish to register with for further information regarding application requirements.
Once you have chosen your licensed producer you must notify your doctor that prescribed you your prescription, your doctor will then send on your perception to the licensed producer.
Now that you’ve chosen your licensed producer and had your doctor send them your prescription, you need to visit your licensed producers website and register with them. Each licensed producer will vary on how the application process is handled.
Once your licensed producer has received your prescription they will contact you via email or phone call and let you know the details on how the process of ordering product works and how you can get your first order of cannabis. The staff of the licensed producer will then provide you with dosing information and provide guidance on the basis of your doctors recommendation. Once you have placed your first order your medical cannabis will be shipped out via Canada post or Purolator. This should give you a better idea of how to use the medical marijuana system.
How much medical cannabis can I purchase?
According to the Health Canada website you are allowed to possess up to a 30-day supply of dried marijuana, or its equivalent. The maximum amount of cannabis you can purchase is based on the lower amount of what your health care practitioner has recommended, with a max of 150 grams over that 30-day supply. Here is the example that Health Canada gives on their website:
For example, if your health care practitioner recommends:
2 grams of dried marijuana a day, you can possess up to 60 grams of dried marijuana at one time
- 2 grams x 30 days = 60 grams
6 grams of dried marijuana a day, you can possess only 150 grams of dried marijuana
- 6 grams x 30 days = 180 grams
- the maximum amount is still only 150 grams, as set out in the regulation
If you need help with how much cannabis you need when ordering, head over to our Complete Guide to Weed Measurements.
Most Common Conditions Medical Marijuana Is Prescribed For?
Over the last decade cannabis use and its medical purposes have become more apparent and mainstream then ever before. The evolving research continues to show therapeutic value for a wide variety of health conditions, helping treat or alleviate symptoms from a variety of serious ailments.
There is a long list of medical conditions that marijuana can help with, here we look at various conditions where medical cannabis has shown to provide relief for medical benefits in helping deal specific conditions. It’s important to do your own research on the conditions you are suffering from and see if cannabis the right type of medication for you. Research on how THC and CBD can effectively help with medical conditions is always being researched with new findings and studies coming out on a regular basis. Specific conditions have had more research done related to the benefits of cannabis, here are a few where cannabis has been proven to help. Looking for an more in-depth look into cannabis and disorders? Head over to our Does Marijuana Help To Cure Cancer and Disorders article.
MS is a disease that effects the brain, spinal cord and nervous system. Symptoms range in a variety of ailments such as pain, spasms, balance issues, tingling, visions problems and other serious issues. It can also eventually lead to the loss of leg function, leaving many to rely on a cane or wheelchair. The Multiple Sclerosis Journal found that the use of cannabis based medicinal extracts can significantly help reduce muscle spasms and the pain associated with MS, with little to no side effects to patients.
Cancer is the number one leading death in Canada resulting in 30 percent of deaths in Canada. There are no direct results to cannabis curing cancer but it can help with a vast number of severe symptoms and help improve the overall quality of life of cancer patients. Cannabis works similarly to opioids when treating those with cancer related pain and can have anti-inflammatory effects as well. Research has also shown that both THC and CBD the two key components found in cannabis can help with things like increasing appetite, which helps control weight loss in cancer patients and also helping deal with anorexia and cachexia which many cancer paitents experience during their battle with cancer. Cannabis has also showed strong signs to fight nausea which helps when patients are going through things like chemotherapy.
Arthritis is general term that means inflammation of the joints, there are over 100 different types of arthritis such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. When arthritis develops it causes swelling and redness of the joints while reducing the range of motion, stiffness, weakness and ongoing pain. Cannabis is known to provide pain relief and helps manage the various symptoms that come with arthritis, it has even been known to help suppress arthritis in some individuals.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder where the body suddenly haa recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness and convulsions. Epilepsy is characterized by seizures that can range from mild to extreme where you loss full consciousnesses and awareness of your body. When using cannabis it has been proven to have an effective effect on reducing the amount and severity of epileptic seizures, specifically when taking CBD the other major compound besides THC in the cannabis plant.
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