Health Canada Mails Details of Marijuana Users

A privacy breach on the part of Health Canada has landed personal information in the hands of a medical marijuana patient in Toronto.

Kyle Andrews, who relies on medical marijuana to ease symptoms brought on by HIV and Hepatitis C, received a package from Health Canada Wednesday that included the rules and regulations he requested about how he was allowed to ingest the marijuana. But it also included two pages documenting personal information from other medical marijuana patients who had called the Marihuana Medical Access Division.

The pages included the callers’ first and last names, addresses, apartment numbers, home and work phone numbers and details of their situation as given to a calltaker at the division.

“This is just unprofessional. This is something I would expect from maybe the other side of the medical marijuana community, the street side,” he said. He notified the two people whose information was included in the package he received.

One of them, a woman who would only identify herself as Mrs. Li, has been in touch with the Marihuana Medical Access Division to get the drugs for her husband, who is suffering from liver cancer.

She was upset to learn Health Canada would leak her information -accident or not.

“I was surprised. It’s supposed to be private,” she said from her home in Surrey, B.C. “They have everything, his doctor’s address, his sister’s information, everything.”

Mr. Andrews also called Health Canada, but did not get a response until Thursday, when a top official called him to explain the situation. The Health Canada director told him they did not want the issue to be made public and asked him to mail the information back.

He refused and is now working on submitting a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner.

Late Thursday, Health Canada told the Post they were “aware of an incident involving the potential disclosure of personal information.”

“We have taken immediate steps to investigate this occurrence,” wrote spokesperson Leslie Meerburg.

“The Department is reviewing its internal procedures to prevent future incidences.”

At this time, Health Canada can’t say how the privacy breach occurred, she added.

Mr. Andrews, 33, was diagnosed as HIV positive about a decade ago, having contracted it from a partner. He began using crack cocaine and methamphetamines to stave off chronic pain and depression brought on by the disease and soon turned to marijuana. Four years ago, he started dealing with Health Canada’s Marihuana Medical Access Division to gain access to marijuana legally -a year before he contracted Hepatitis C.

“I was not surprised [by the breach]because they’re so slack with their program,” he said of the Health Canada division.

“Their turnover time to get a terminally ill person to get a medical marijuana card [is lengthy]. The longest I waited was 10 months.”

Without a card, a person in possession of marijuana can be charged.

Health Canada stressed that it takes the protection of private information very seriously.

– Article from the National Post on March 12, 2011.



  1. Anonymous on

    I am not only waiting for my card, I received the long pink paper licence, only to find that Hellth Canada made serious errors on the information on it, which invalidates it. Talk about convenient, should I be arrested! My licence is not valid!
    Phonecalls – I called the MMAR division on 14 April 2011 to inform them of the problem, only to get their call centre. I was informed I would receive a phonecall within 5 working days.
    On the 15th of April, I sent a letter with the pink form back to Hellth Canada, explaining the problem.
    On 23 April 2011 I called Hellth Canada again, as I had heard NOTHING from them, only to get the explanation that I would get a call back within 5 working days – I explained I had already waited beyond that, only to get a vague “I’ll include that in the email”.
    I was away from my home when I received a return phonecall, on 02 May 2011, where I was left a vague message that they “were aware of the problem and would deal with it” – no time frame, nada. In other words, I have now been stuck with an invalid licence, the error is Hellth Canada’s, and I am in limbo.
    This is the kind of government Canadians want???
    If this was Stephen Harpers family, I bet the paperwork would be moving, and the calls returned promptly. Why do we, the voters, Canadians, deserve less???
    I still haven’t had a reply to my letter, nor do I have even the pink paper licence, never mind the laminated licence we are supposed to have with us at all times.
    I sure do feel safe now (not!).

  2. Beatnuck on

    Please contact Health Canada with a brief letter explaining how the delay impacts your health and well-being. Politely inform Health Canada that you are extremely upset over the delay and would like to initiate a formal, written complaint:

    Marihuana Medical Access Division
    Controlled Substances and Tobacco Directorate
    Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch
    Health Canada
    Address Locator 3503B
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 1B9

    E-mail: [email protected]
    Telephone: 1-866-337-7705
    Facsimile: 613-952-2196
    Teletypewriter: 1-800-267-1245 (Health Canada)

    cc the letter to the Minister:

    The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P.
    Health Canada
    Brooke Claxton Building, Tunney’s Pasture
    Postal Locator: 0906C
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9

    Even if this doesn’t speed things up, the Minister can’t say she is unaware of the fact that these (politically motivated) delays are causing great harm and suffering to sick and disabled people. If every person who experiences similar delays writes letters of complaint to the Marihuana Medical Access Division and the Minister, sooner or later they’ll get it. This needs to become a squeaky wheel that needs oiling. It is vitally important that this info come from everyday people who actually need and use medicinal marijuana rather than from politicians. It adds a moral element that is otherwise lacking.

  3. 420pug on

    I’ve been waiting 4 months for my MMAR card. Maybe he has it? 1/3 of my 1 year prescription already has gone without my identification card.