Reverand Damuzi Response to MMAR
Dear Mr Erickson:
I am writing this letter to express to you my concerns about the new medical cannabis regulations developed by Health Minister Allan Rock released on April 6, 2001, and entitled “Marihuana medical access regulations Regulations ammending the narcotic control regulations.”
I see the newly proposed regulations as an enormous setback which will have the effect of making medical cannabis harder to get, not easier.
–Concern 1: the process is not streamlined for patients–
The regulations include three categories under which patients might receive medical bud. The first category includes anyone so sick that a General Practitioner (GP) – a regular family doctor – believes they will die within a year. The second category includes people with symptoms attributable to diseases like AIDS (or HIV infection), cancer, MS and epilepsy, but not those with hepatitis or glaucoma, two illnesses which benefit greatly from cannabis use. The third category includes anyone with an illness not included in category two, but who demonstrates that marijuana will alleviate their symptoms.
Pot patients in the first category (with only a year to live) need only get the approval of their doctor. But if you survive longer than two years, then you must apply under a different category. Meaning that if cannabis has the effect of extending your life, then it becomes harder to get.
Pot patients in the second category will have to find a medical specialist willing to attest that “all conventional therapies” have been tried and found “medically inappropriate.” Pot patients who fall into the third category will have to find two willing specialists. Specialists are not always easy to find, especially in some remote communities, residents of which may be to poor to afford to travel to major centres for an appointment. Specialists often have huge backlogs of appointments, meaning it could take months for a patient to even see one. This definately does not “streamline” the application process.
–Concern 2: doctors’ licences and rights are threatened under the new regs–
The proposed regulations raise serious questions about how many specialists and doctors will be willing to support an application for medical marijuana. Last year, Canadian medical licensing authorities discouraged doctors from prescribing medical cannabis with vague threats about recording their names and endangering their licenses. Under the new regulations, doctors who prescribe pot will have to supply Health Canada with reams of personal information including their provincial medical license numbers.
The Ministry of Health threatens to provide all of this information to the provincial authority responsible for licensing that doctor if the Ministry of Health believes that the doctor has “contravened a rule of conduct established by the [medical licensing] authority.” Which, ironically, might include a rule against prescribing cannabis to patients. Health Canada will also tattle on doctors for prescribing cannabis if the doctor is found guilty of a drug offense (like smoking pot), or if the doctor makes a “false statement under these regulations.” So if Health Canada disagrees with a doctor’s recommendation that only cannabis can help a particular patient, that doctor might lose his license.
Also the proposed regs would see changes to section 53 of the CDSA, which I believe interferes with doctors’ longstanding right to prescribe anything that they believe is to the benefit of their patients’ health. This is a dangerous precedent and should not be tolerated.
–Concern 3: patients’ safety and right to health care is threatened under the new regs–
The proposed regs also raise questions about how many medpot patients will be willing to apply, given Health Canada’s penchant for releasing such information to the press. The proposed regs invasively require that applicants – like doctors – supply tons of personal info, as well as two current photos of themselves. Additionally, medpot applicants may be subjected to expensive application fees, as the proposed regs make it clear that fees might be created to cover the cost of the program. Why is all other health care in Canada socialized, while medical cannabis users are being targetted for fees?
–Concern 4: compassion clubs are threatened under the new regs–
Marc Boris St-Maurice, founder of the Montreal Compassion Club and the Canadian Marijuana Party says the new regs are “a horrible disappointment.” I will quote him as he states clearly my concern on this issue:
“For compassion clubs it is a huge step backward, because those who apply for an exemption have to mention one of two things, either they are going to produce the marijuana themselves, or they are going to get it from an licensed distributor,” explained Boris. “In article 4, patients have to name a supplier, and in article 6 the reason [for refusing the patient’s application] is that the distributor mentioned is not licensed according to the legislation. And there is no licensing for organizations, just individuals. So there are no licenses for compassion clubs. And any patient mentioning that their supplier is a compassion club will be automatically denied.”
–Concern 5: medical cannabis growers are threatened under the new regs–
Medical cannabis growers will also be heavily scrutinized under the proposed regulations. Growers must pass criminal record checks, supply personal information, and have no prior drug offenses in the past ten years. They can supply only one medical cannabis patient each, and a maximum total of only three growers can operate in a single location. Growers must also make their grow-locations available to unannounced, unwarranted inspections, during which inspectors may snoop through any computer data, records or information, look into any container that might contain marijuana, and “seize any substance” found on the premises.
The proposed regs promise that all personal information will be kept confidential, except in the case of a complaint. Should anyone, a disgruntled neighbour, an ex-spouse, or even a cop, complain about a licensed grower, an inspector will make a record, and the Minister of Health can notify local police forces, initiating an investigation or even a raid against the grower.
Medical growers are unlikely to seek licenses under these conditions, and so medical users who have to name a licensed provider on their application are unlikely to seek government approval, unless they are growing their own pot themselves. This leaves medical cannabis users largely where they were before the new regulations: with no realistic way of getting medical pot from an outside supplier.