CANNABIS CULTURE – The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD), a newly-formed advocacy group for med-pot providers, is asking patients who use marijuana as medicine to tell Health Canada that “dispensaries are indispensable”.
The CAMCD is asking medical marijuana users to join their national campaign “to have medical cannabis dispensaries recognized as legal providers of medical cannabis” by signing an endorsement online or at their local dispensary.
“We started the ‘Dispensaries are Indispensable’ national endorsement campaign to try to make it as clear as possible that the services patients are getting from dispensaries are valued,” CAMCD Director Jeet-Kei Leung told Cannabis Culture. “We are asking that dispensaries be included in the Canadian Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) as an option for patients to access their medicine.”
The campaign was designed to help medical marijuana users, whether certified by Health Canada or not certified, express their support for dispensaries as safe sources of cannabis and request that Health Canada recognized them as legal providers.
The effort is in response to proposed changes to the MMAR by Health Canada and the Canadian federal government that will eliminate patient’s personal production licences and identification cards, and build a system of private, for-profit marijuana growers who would provide medicine to all patients in Canada. The governments proposed plans do not mention the many cannabis dispensaries established in cities across Canada.
“We’re seeing one of the most dramatic overhauls of the MMAR regulations in the period of their existence,” Leung said. “Dispensaries have been left out of the legal framework again and they are the choice of 30,000 patients across Canada. The valuable services that dispensaries have been providing for 15 years could never be replaced by a package in the mail from an unnamed ‘licenced commercial producer’.”
Leung said the campaign is already “on the ground at 20 dispensaries across Canada” and the response has been “overwhelming and positive”. Patient endorsements are phase one of the campaign, with an appeal to doctors and heath care organizations to follow.
This is the first major campaign of the CAMCD, a not-for-profit organization formed in May 2011 by a group of some of the largest dispensaries in Canada “to advocate on behalf of the dispensary model.” The current advisory board, according to Leung, “represents 85 years of operational experience and over 20,000 patients who are accessing our services through those dispensaries.”
“We are here to help explain what dispensaries do, the services they provide, and the important gaps they fill in the provision of medical cannabis that haven’t been provided by Health Canada,” he said. “We’re also here to support dispensaries in providing the highest quality of care to patients.”
The CAMCD is currently developing nationwide standards for the operation of dispensaries and a certification process that dispensaries can voluntarily choose to be part of. These standards are “based on the best practices of established dispensaries across Canada,” Leung said. “They are not set in stone, and we expect things to keep evolving and developing.”
For example, the self-imposed rules might include a nationwide protocol for the intake of patients with mental health diagnosis or standards for organic certification for medical cannabis.
“One of the biggest obstacles so far to the acceptance of dispensaries has been variance of standards,” Leung said. “This system will help people, including health care professionals and law enforcement, see who is meeting these standards and that they are consistent across the country, that they are transparent, and they have input from stakeholders.”
The move comes as the Conservative government of Canada continues its all-out war on marijuana users. Harper’s proposed plans for Health Canada’s MMAR present some large concerns Leung said, as well as a few positive elements.
“There is no doubt that depriving patients of the right to grow for themselves is a serious right that is being undermined and that is a big concern,” he said. “Another big concern is who these ‘licenced commercial producers’ will be – I think that is quite nebulous – there is a lot of room for things to go wrong in that system. On the positive side, I think we can feel good about the removal of the federal approval process and the super-onerous 33-page form. I think that could be a big step for accessibility for patients; however, there is still a lot we don’t know.”
Health Canada is accepting submissions until July 31, 2011 as part of a “consultation period” on the proposed changes to the regulations.
Sign another petition about the proposed changes to the MMAR and find info about contacting Health Canada at this link.
Watch an episode of Cannabis Culture News LIVE from July 22 featuring an interview with Jeet-Kei Leung.