Last Summer, the Canadian Government was given one year to change the country’s marijuana laws. That year would have been over in the coming Summer of 2001. As the deadline approached, medical cannabis users wrung their hands in hope that an election wearied, sleepy-eyed government would miss the deadline, and all cannabis laws would be declared null and void. Which would have meant no more bureaucratic nightmares to get legal recognition and no more hassles from the cops if you can’t be bothered to apply. But the government didn’t miss the deadline. On Saturday, April 7, Health Minister Allan Rock announced the new regulations.
“Canada is acting compassionately by allowing people who are suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses to have access to marijuana for medical purposes,” Allan Rock told the press. “Today’s announcement is the next important step. It will bring greater clarity to the process for Canadians who require the use of this drug to alleviate symptoms.”
The plan will go into effect on July 31, and includes three categories under which patients might receive medical bud. The first category includes anyone so sick that they are expected to die within a year. The second includes people with illnesses like AIDS (or HIV infection), cancer, and MS. The third includes anyone who demonstrates that marijuana will alleviate their symptoms.
The new laws will provide a clear legal definition of medical cannabis use, which is an improvement over the previous section-56 exemption system, which was more like receiving a government pardon to use medpot. The section-56 ‘pardon’ was granted to patients for only limited periods of time, and the section-56 program could have been shut down at any time.
There are still concerns about the proposed laws, however. All three categories of patients will have to find a medical specialist willing to attest that regular pharmaceutical medications do not work to alleviate their suffering. Patients who fall into the third category will have to find two willing specialists. Medpot patients will also have to get their doctor to fill out and send in applications to use medical pot.
While having doctors complete applications undoubtedly takes some of the weight off of patients who are too ill or encumbered to complete endless reams of paperwork, it raises some questions about how many doctors will be willing to put their names to the forms or how many specialists will be willing to support the use of medical marijuana. Last year, the College of Physicians and Surgeons discouraged doctors from prescribing medical cannabis with vague threats about endangering their licences.
The new laws will also see a change to the way that pot patients can legally acquire their medicine of choice. Health Minister Rock is exploring legislation that would allow caretakers to grow and provide medicine for up to three medical users. Cannabis compassion clubs report that the Ministry of Health has been in contact with them and is seeking further information from which to construct their guidelines.