Many people are confused by the legal status of medical cannabis in Canada. With all the talk about legalizing cannabis nationwide right now, it’s not hard to see why. Isn’t cannabis illegal?
Yes … and No
The quick answer is yes, cannabis is illegal in Canada right now. It’s classed as a Schedule II controlled substance, similar to heroin or cocaine. Many people have been fined or arrested and even jailed for the possession of even a small amount of cannabis on their person.
This applies to cannabis generally. If you have cannabis for any reason other than a medical purpose, it’s currently illegal.
This leads many people to the next question: Is medical cannabis legal? Yes!
The Exception to the Rule
The answer to the question “is medical cannabis legal” is yes. Medical cannabis is the major exception to the rule when it comes to the legal status of cannabis in Canada.
Medical cannabis was legalized in 2001 under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). This piece of legislation created an exemption for those using cannabis to treat medical conditions or producing cannabis for medical purposes.
Essentially, if you’re treating a medical condition with cannabis with the proper documentation, it is perfectly legal to do so. You may even qualify to grow your own.
How Does It Work?
This is the part that confuses most people. Cannabis is illegal, yet medical cannabis is perfectly legal. How can that happen? How is medical cannabis legal in Canada while cannabis itself is illegal?
The ACMPR lays out the groundwork for the exception. Not just anyone can go get cannabis and then claim it’s for medical use. You must fill out the proper paperwork in order to obtain an authorization for medical cannabis before you can have it.
The first step is consulting with a medical professional about medical cannabis to treat your condition. If it’s agreed medical cannabis may benefit you, then you’ll obtain an authorization. The authorization will contain information about the dose you take and how long you’re taking the medication.
This way, if you happen to have a run-in with the law, you can produce the paperwork saying you’re allowed to have this much medical cannabis on you.
Authorization Is Not a “Get out of Jail Free Card”
Some people think once they’ve been authorized cannabis for medical use, they’re free to have as much on them as they like whenever they want. This isn’t true.
You must act in accordance with your authorization. If you’re taking medical cannabis for a month at a particular dose, you can’t have more than that 30-day supply. If your authorization is two grams per day for one month only, you can have 60 grams. If you have 120 grams, you could find yourself in hot water.
The same is true of the duration of your authorization. If you’re authorized for one month in April, you cannot have any medical cannabis in June. Unless your authorization is renewed, it would be expired.
There are other rules you need to play by too, including regulations around the production of your own.
What’s a Licensed Producer?
These producers have authorization from Health Canada to produce medical-grade cannabis and sell it to patients with authorizations. They’re not allowed to sell it to anyone else, nor are they allowed to overproduce. Their product must also be a certain grade.
What about Legalization?
The federal government has promised cannabis legalization is going to happen, probably this year. The deadline has, however, already been pushed back to August. More delays could occur.
In the meantime, medical cannabis is already legal in Canada! If you’ve been wondering about it as a treatment for a medical condition, there’s no need to wait.