Wayne Phillips Response to MMAR
Monday, April 23, 2001
Office of Controlled Substances,
Department of Health,
Address Locator 3503D,
The following are my concerns of the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement as required by Canada Gazette, Part 1, Apr.7, 2001:
1. Cannabis patients in the first category (with only a year to live) need only get the approval of their doctor. But cannabis 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.” Cannabis patients who fall into the third category will have to find two willing specialists.
If you are in category one and you survive longer than two years, you are obligated to get out of category one; that is tantamount to saying that should cannabis have the effect of prolonging life, then it is should be made more difficult to obtain the necessary qualifications!
There are many other medicines that are far more powerful, much more dangerous and have far more significant side effects that are not regulated in this way; they need only a normal doctor to be prescribed. With cannabis, now you need to see a specialist. This is not a matter of approving the drug; it is a matter of approving the patient while unnecessarily burdening any physician or specialist that would approve cannabis as medicine. This is not only inappropriate, and discriminatory, it is inefficient in terms of physician workload, physician-to-patient time ratio; it will also draw much needed resources from an already cash strapped Health System.
2. The proposed regulations raise serious questions about how many specialists and doctors would be willing to support an application for medicinal cannabis. Last year, Canadian medical licensing authorities discouraged doctors from prescribing medicinal cannabis with vague threats about recording their names and endangering their licenses. Under the new regulations, doctors who prescribe cannabis will have to supply to Health Canada reams of personal information including their provincial medical licensing numbers.
3. 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 inform on doctors for prescribing cannabis if the doctor is found guilty of a drug offence (like smoking cannabis), or if the doctor is deemed to have made 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. On what criteria is this based …bureaucratic whim, the patients’ past criminal record, doctor chastisement, or Health Canada’s less than proven track record of getting it right.
4. The proposed regulations 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 and police. The proposed regulations invasively require that applicants, on behalf of the patient supply tons of personal info, as well as two current and specific photos of the patient. Additionally, medpot applicants may be subjected to expensive application fees (which personally I cannot afford – if I could find physician willing to forego the above).
5. 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 cannabis themselves, or they are going to get it from a licensed distributor. In that patients have to name a supplier, if that distributor mentioned is not licensed according to the legislation the patient exemption is revoked/denied. There is no licensing for organizations/compassion clubs, just individuals. And any patient mentioning that their supplier is a compassion club will be automatically denied.
6. Growers will also be heavily scrutinized under the proposed regulations. Growers must pass criminal record checks, supply personal information, and have no prior drug offences 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 cannabis, and “seize any substance” found on the premises.
7. The proposed regulations 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.
8. Medical growers are unlikely to seek licenses under these conditions, and so potential medical patients who have to name a licensed provider on their application are unlikely to seek government approval, unless they are growing their own cannabis themselves. This leaves medical cannabis patients largely where they were before the new regulations: with no realistic way of getting medical cannabis from an outside supplier.
9. There is no Canada Customs and no Revenue Agency considerations, thereby rendering restrictions on potential patient mobility in and out of the country; no Revenue Agency considerations creates a “grey area” regarding taxation and record keeping necessities. All while further complicating both Canada Customs and Revenue Agency policy.
10. Grounds for refusal by the Ministry work at cross-purposes of its supposed intended purpose as required by the order of Justice Sheppard.
11. The ongoing impact that this Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement will have enormous negative impact not only on Health Canada but also on all involved. To attempt to offset this cost by passing it along to the patient undermines any otion of the universality of health care in Canada by setting into play mechanisms by which only those that can afford these imposed costs will have access.
This letter brings to your attention that this Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement is beyond unacceptable in that it creates undo burden where in fact none should exist, it is gives cause to discriminatory practice; in effect this Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement does not meet the requirements as set down by Justice Sheppard.