History of Medical Cannabis in Canada

Today, access to medical cannabis is legal in Canada. This makes medical cannabis a medication just like any other prescription drug and can be used by employees to treat things like chronic pain and anxiety.

So, how did we get here?

Here is a quick history:

1923 – Marijuana is criminalized.

Cannabis was added to Canada’s Confidential Restricted List in 1923. Today, without a medical prescription, cannabis is illegal under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act.

2001 – Canada introduces the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations.

In 2001, Health Canada granted access to marihuana for medical purposes to Canadians who had the support of their physicians. The Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) outlined the rules and regulations on medical cannabis.

Approved individuals had three options for obtaining dried cannabis:

  1. Access Health Canada’s supply of dried marihuana
  2. Apply for a personal-use production licence
  3. Designate someone with a production licence to cultivate on his or her behalf

To be eligible under the MMAR, patients had to prove they had Category 1 or 2 symptoms.

Category 1 Symptoms

  • Any symptom treated within the context of compassionate end-of-life care,
  • Symptoms related to specific medical conditions, namely:
  • Severe pain and/or persistent muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis
  • Severe pain and/or persistent muscle spasms from a spinal cord injury
  • Severe pain and/or persistent muscle spasms from a spinal cord disease
  • Severe pain, cachexia, anorexia, weight loss, and/or severe nausea from cancer
  • Severe pain, cachexia, anorexia, weight loss, and/or severe nausea from HIV/AIDS infection
  • Severe pain from severe forms of arthritis
  • Seizures from epilepsy

Category 2 Symptoms

  • A debilitating symptom that is associated with a medical condition or with the medical treatment of that condition, other than those described in Category 1.

2013 – Out with MMAR and in with MMPR

The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) came into force in June 2013. The regulations created a commercial industry that is responsible for the production and distribution of medical marijuana today.

The MMPR also ensures that Canadians with a medical need can access quality-controlled marijuana grown under secure and sanitary conditions.

Unlike the MMAR, the MMPR allows patients to receive a prescription for medical cannabis for any condition. The decision is between the physician and the patient.

Under the MMPR, approved patients must purchase their medical cannabis from a Licensed Producer who is approved and regulated by Health Canada. Home production is no longer allowed.

Today – What does this mean?

Medical cannabis is legal across Canada and a legitimate prescription drug that employees in your company may be prescribed.

It has been estimated that there will be hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in Canada over the next 5 years.

We have only scratched the surface on cannabis medical research. Many medical studies are underway that will shed more light on cannabis in the coming years.

Regardless, the use of medical cannabis is growing. As a society we will have to learn how to accommodate this into our workplace, communities, medical facilities and lifestyles.

Change is coming. In many ways, it is already here.

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