Study Investigates Barriers to Medical Marijuana Access in Canada

CANNABIS CULTURE – Do you use cannabis for medical purposes? A coalition of health groups is asking for the help of Canadian medical marijuana users in a new study about barriers to accessing the drug.

The study was created by researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan and the Canadian AIDS Society and has the backing of a varied group of partners including the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, Canadians for Safe Access, the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, and the Canadian Treatment Action Council.

Researchers will collect data from a comprehensive online survey filled out by anyone who lives in Canada and uses cannabis for medical purposes. The information will be used in a study that will focus on difficulties in accessing cannabis.


The national survey was created by cannabis activist and researcher Rob Callaway with a grant from UBC Okanagan’s Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, based on another study created by Lynne Belle-Isle of the Canadian AIDS society.

“The academic literature is almost silent on the topic,” Callaway told Cannabis Culture. “The cannabis community is well aware of the Hell people go through trying to get access to cannabis, the sick are well aware, some of the court cases have make some lawyers and judges well aware, but by and large, people in academia have no clue.”

Callaway said information collected in the study is intended to add to the base of knowledge in the academic literature and will be helpful in in future studies, court cases and political initiatives on the subject.

“When it’s completed, it will be the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted in Canada … to document in the literature the barriers people encounter while trying to access cannabis,” Callaway said.

The study takes about 30 minutes to an hour to complete and includes a wide range of questions about topics including where patients acquire their medicine and interactions they’ve had with medical professionals in relation to medical marijuana. The questions were developed, in part, with a community board of activists, researchers, medical marijuana growers and patients from across the country.

Anybody who is Canadian and “uses cannabis for what they themselves would consider some form of medical use” is invited to participate in the survey. “They don’t have to have their Health Canada card or a recommendation by a physician,” Callaway said.

Callaway said the information will be analysed and the findings presented publicly and published in a journal.

“Because it’s a national study, we’re hoping to acquire a lot of data that hasn’t been found before,” he said.

In the recent court case of R. v. Mernagh, an Ontario judge ruled Canada’s Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) “constitutionally invalid” due to patients having trouble accessing the drug. The judge said the “overwhelming refusal” by doctors “to participate in the medicinal marijuana program completely undermines the effectiveness of the program.”

The government of Canada has proposed a number of changes to the MMAR that have many medical cannabis users worried, including ending personal cultivation and building a system of private for-profit medpot dealers.

Watch an episode of Cannabis Culture News LIVE featuring an interview with researcher Rob Callaway (interview starts at 24:00):

Jeremiah Vandermeer is editor of Cannabis Culture. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



  1. Anonymous on

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that we’re going back in time. Our history has never been so oppressive or tyrannical. But it is fair to say that we are now beginning to compete with the more oppressive and tyrannical governments in history. Semantics of course, your point is otherwise 100% valid.

    It’s not just about the drug war though, it’s about control and government in general. We don’t control our government and so they must control us in order to take us in directions we don’t want to go with a loaded gun at our temple.

    The drug on the people is non the less a very massive and multi trillion dollar component of that. This gives us common cause with the “Global Revolution” aka OWS, and OWS needs to expand their scope. Maybe now they’ve learned they can’t afford popular segregation and that it won’t gain them support but rather lose it. There’s no use of a revolution that can’t see past its nose.

  2. Guitarod on

    we are definitely going back in time and entering marshal law. this war is against sick and non violent people.
    There’s a new sheriff in town!

  3. Guitarod on

    The survey says most recreational pot smokers use cannabis for therapy, quite similar to the the reason that drinkers consume alcohol.
    For the buzz and relaxation.
    Medicinal consumers use it because they have to, as many are living with chronic pain.
    Sounds pretty criminal eh.

  4. Anonymous on

    In case I wasn’t clear enough in my intentions above, I want to make it really clear that medical marijuana patients are preyed upon but all factions involved. From police/justice/surveillance to the typical doctor that’s deeply invested, trained and brainwashed in and by the pharmaceutical community, to the so called advocates and pro marijuana doctors out there that would “take that risk if the price is right”, charging you percentage of your income to sign the forms or in trying to gain control over the entire medical marijuana production and distribution…

    The survey will show absolutely none of this and therefore will act to support the continued predation of these people under all systems.

    The only reasonable option to avoid that systemic predation is to ensure people maintain the right and ability to grow their own and for friends/family and also to do so in sufficient quantity as to be useful and meaningful. A 5 plant limit, which might be fine for your weekend warrior so called recreational user, doesn’t begin to cut it for a medicinal user. If that’s not recognised by the future medicinal system then the most vulnerable of these people will be preyed upon by law enforcement and for profit prisons with manditory minimums.

    I really find it unlikely that any actual medical marijuana users were involved in the making of this survey and if they were they probably of the priviledged variety.

    If this survey had given me the opportunity to voice any of the types of concerns I have discussed here, I would take it, but since it doesn’t, I won’t.

  5. Anonymous on

    Going into this survey you’re presented with some very authoritative and official sounding dire warnings about the nature of the questions making it seem as they’re headed into dangerous waters. As you start the survey and see how slow the progress bar is going it’s immediately evident you’re asking for a certain time commmitment.

    This disrespects not only people’s time, but their health condition pertaining to physical and mental acuity. Rather than be presented with an entire page so that one can quickly scan the nature of the questions, and thereby, as a first step, have the required information to judge whether or not it’s something they would like to continue with or not, instead you have to click through it one by one and in doing so still end up missing at least 20% of the questions.

    Once you combine these two issues, namely, the dire warnings, and the linear, controlled/guided/fenced in approach of requiring such a commitment ahead of knowing what you’re getting into, you find yourself with a massive dissincentive to take it at all! If your goal in this survey is to have as many people as possible take it such that it could be of some significance, you’ve failed already, exactly like the health canada medical marihuana program has, by providing incentive not to participate.

    Having seen at least 81% of the questions though I find it takes such a narrow view that any results will lack any substance and could easily be used against the people taking it. That is to say, it could be used to show that the health canada’s current proposal for the program would be the ideal answer to people’s issues/concerns as per demonstrated with the pretty graphs that this “survey” will generate.

    However, in the exact same way that their current proposal remains ignorant of a lot of the actual issues with the current program that will directly carry over into the proposed program, so does this survey remain ignorant of them by concentrating on such a narrow focus.

    I also found it ignores the middle ground comletely and early on forces you to choose one of two paths. Either you’re a user who benefits from it medically or a user that tried it but stopped. What about option C, where youv’e always used it medically but don’t use it because you can’t afford to or can’t access it. It seems self evident to me that if you really want to judge the state of the current medical marijuana program you’d be asking these kinds of people…. people like me that even got a supposed medical exemption and watched it expire without ever having made use of it. That doesn’t imply that it’s of no value medically to me, however it does conclude that the program is of absolute no value whatsoever.

    I think the questions should also at least attempt to touch upon the predatory nature of the people involved on both sides of the fence. Doctors that try to drug your brain into soup because that’s where their business model finds profit, whilst warning you about marijuana making you a schizophrenic.

    On the other side you have predatory doctors who attempt(ed) to recreate the medical marijuana program in their image, serving their purpose, doing in my opinion what would be a tremendous amount of damage by even spreading reefer madness type of propaganda when it suited their purpose and having a small army of so called “Advocates” worship them as gods, advocates that being in the inner circle are immune to the harm of their immediate policies and happily ignorant of the long term damage. They have done far worse indeed than just take your money to sign their name on the application!

    For example, giving a preferred patient as the type I just described, a 100 plant count prescription, as a reward for being a puppet advocate for their ghestapo policies. While patients such as myself get a standard and highly ignorant minimal “3/6/9” dose, without even enquiring about things like tolerance or personal requirements. If you’re not even going to ask them about that, then what the hell good are they ? They justify that by accusing their patients of diversion and breathing life into propaganda under the under their supposed badge of authority that their puppets collectively worship them over.

    It also ignores how such “safe” low prescriptions are insufficient to allow you to grow properly within the exemption because of the flaws in the policy that count seedlings, males, and unrooted clones as well as mothers as plants toward your total.

    On the whole of it there should be at least some focus on the quality of the product for which there really is none, where the only concerns apparent seem to be your “feelings” of safety and self respect.

    A lot of people will put their safety and self respect at risk for some high quality meds that give them their money’s worth and actually get the job done. It’s a sad reality of the current and proposed system that this will continue.

  6. Anonymous on

    The Federal Tort Claims Act or “FTCA”, (June 25, 1948, ch. 646, Title IV, 62 Stat. 982, “28 U.S.C. Pt.VI Ch.171” and 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)), is a statute enacted by the United States Congress in 1948. “Federal Tort Claims Act” was also previously the official short title passed by the Seventy-ninth Congress on August 2, 1946 as Title IV of the Legislative Reorganization Act, 60 Stat. 842, which was classified principally to chapter 20 (§§ 921, 922, 931–934, 941–946) of former Title 28, Judicial Code and Judiciary.
    That Title IV of the Legislative Reorganization Act act of August 2, 1946 was substantially repealed and reenacted as sections 1346 (b) and 2671 et seq. of this title by act June 25, 1948, ch. 646, 62 Stat. 982, the first section of which enacted this title (Tort Claims Procedure). [1]
    The FTCA permits private parties to sue the United States in a federal court for most torts committed by persons acting on behalf of the United States. The FTCA constitutes a limited waiver of sovereign immunity.

    The Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, for the first time, gave American citizens the right to sue the federal government.” [4]

    Bill O’Reilly Thinks Medical Marijuana is a Sneaky Plot to Give People Medicine, Or Something

    Bill O’Reilly’s indignant posturing is typical of the contemporary medical marijuana skeptic: I have no problem with medical use, but any plan for supplying patients is a fraud and anyone who grows or sells marijuana is a scumbag.

    The primary reason for this communication was to create an awareness of the methods of omission used by all parties in this great crime against humanity itself. Now if you look closely you will not find the mentioning of powerful antibiotic actions of marijuana nor will you find the mentioning of the Lyme plague (Lyme disease primarily is treated with powerful antibiotics ) which was so disturbing to myself — you the reader are being directed to these specific omitted facts with all the background provided.

    Cannabis plant extracts can effectively fight drug-resistant bacteria.

    Antibacterial Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa

    The audience of the communication has at length in time now been exposed to the Lyme plague instrumented by the United States Government and their facilitating agents. The email sent out by Joseph Mercola clearly demonstrates the aggressive actions by the criminal parties which must be responded to with every action possible.

    Thus the difficult yet apparent facts of this bio weapon being empowered by marijuana Prohibition comes to light. This is the 2012 moment and we have to prosecute this crime as a collective tribe.

  7. Anonymous on

    I get where you’re comming from but that makes no sense, it would be counter productive.

    There’s some conflated purpose here to evaluate the usefulness of the drug for medical purposes which… is unscientific and therefore of no significant value. That’s the part that makes us gimps want to answer but it’s more of a smoke screen than anything.

    And then there is the other purpose, which is to evaluate the state and quality of the medical “marihuana” program by health canada.

    Really, this reeks like bait. But I’ll explain all that in a seperate post after I go down to the corner and buy my morning drugs….. you know, coffee and sugar.

  8. Thomas Davie on

    Doctors do not have the education to properly participate in the program.
    The law does not adequately protect doctors who do support patients.
    Provincial Colleges of Physicians/Surgeons advise against their members haveing anything to do with Cannabis.

    Couple the proposed mandatory minimums re: drug sentencing AND the fact that medical patients will not be allowed to grow at home, well….we better start building those jails and be prepared to incarcerate a lot of sick people.

    Welcome to Canada; home of the new Nazi’s


  9. Adam H on

    The funny thing is 99% of the time surveys are from our American counterparts.

  10. mike on

    This should be a survey with not only Canadian participation but The United States participation as well. I live in the US and I for one would love to participate.