The Cannabis Act will come into effect on October 17, 2018. Medical cannabis, however, has been legal since the early 2000s. Although the rules have changed over time, cannabis has been legal under the ACMPR for nearly 20 years.
What does ACMPR stand for?
ACMPR is short for the Access to Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes Regulations, which are the rules governing the use and authorization of medical cannabis across Canada. Health Canada administers the rules, which include information about who qualifies to use medical cannabis, recommendations, how to authorize it, who can produce it, and more.
The History of the ACMPR
Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001 under what was called the MMAR, or Marihuana Medical Access Regulations. The intent of the program was to define the circumstances under which patients could access medical cannabis and how they would access it.
The MMAR program was set to end in 2014. Citing concerns about abuse of the MMAR, the federal government created the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) in 2013. These rules were stricter. Some of the allowances under MMAR, such as personal production licenses, were discontinued.
The MMPR was then replaced by the ACMPR in 2016. The ACMPR reinstated the personal production program under MMAR, which is similar to allowances under the new Cannabis Act.
How Does It Work?
Under the ACMPR, producers may apply to Health Canada and obtain a license to grow and produce medical marijuana. They may then distribute the product to patients and medical clinics. In most cases, patients will deal directly with the licensed producer after obtaining an authorization for medical cannabis from a medical professional.
Patients who wish to use medical marijuana must qualify to do so. They must obtain an authorization from their doctor or another medical practitioner. The authorization outlines the patient’s dosage and the duration of treatment. This document allows the patient to legally possess the appropriate amount of cannabis during the treatment period.
As an example, a patient authorized to use one gram of cannabis per day for three months would be allowed to have up to 90 grams of cannabis in their possession at the outset of the treatment period. After 45 days, they would only be allowed to have 45 grams in their possession. If the patient and doctor decide to continue treatment, a new authorization would be needed.
What Will Happen under the Cannabis Act?
With the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes, some people initially speculated the government would do away with the medical marijuana program. Even though the government has assured patients and practitioners the ACMPR will remain in place after October 17, some people question if a medical cannabis program is still necessary.
The answer is yes. The ACMPR still provides a legal framework for the medicinal usage of cannabis. One good example is the issue of possession. Under the Cannabis Act, an individual may only have so many grams of cannabis in their possession at any time. With an authorization under the ACMPR, a patient can carry more than this in accordance with their medical needs.
From this scenario alone, it’s easy to see how the ACMPR benefits medical cannabis patients in an environment where cannabis is legal, but still tightly controlled. The ACMPR also helps ensure the quality of products available to the medical market, as medical cannabis must adhere to strict regulation of strain quality.
Essentially, with the ACMPR still in place, medical marijuana patients in Canada can rest easy. The Cannabis Act may change many things, but medical access to this treatment option has been safeguarded by the ACMPR.