An overhaul of the Canadian medical marijuana program began yesterday with a new system designed to replace small-scale growers with large indoor production farms. The new system, known as the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, is reported to result in an annual $1.3 billion market and eventually provide quality medication for 450,000 Canadians.
The changes mean Health Canada, which has issued marijuana to Canadian patients since 2001, is getting out of the medical marijuana business starting April 1, 2014.
“Since its introduction in 2001, Health Canada’s Marihuana Medical Access Program (MMAP) has grown exponentially, from under 500 authorized persons to over 30,000 today,” a release issued by Health Canada in June read. “This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marihuana in their homes. Under the new regulations, production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety.”
With the new system Canadians can have their doctor fill out a form, rather than applying through the government, to obtain medical marijuana. Advocates, such as Vancouver-based Cannabis Culture Magazine, report that this new system cuts out the burdensome federal application as well as federal involvement, but noted that possible barriers to access remain to be seen based on whether or not individual doctors embrace involvement with medical marijuana.
Health Canada has already begun issuing licenses to large-scale producers, including Prairie Plant Systems Inc., which previously served as the country’s sole supplier. Additional applicants include Tweed Inc., a Canadian startup hoping to produce medical weed in a former Hershey chocolate factory.