Securing a medical marijuana license in Canada: harder than stumbling over a pink unicorn
Becoming a licensed of producer of medical marijuana under Health Canada’s Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) is as difficult as finding a pink unicorn prancing in your backyard.
Still wet behind the ears from its April 1, 2014 launch, the MMPR framework is offspring to the moribund Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR). By moribund I mean that medical marijuana producers under the old MMAR should have shut down operations by April 1, 2014. However, in March 2014 it was argued by Allard that the MMPR could not meet the demands for medical marijuana. As a consequence, an interim injunction extended MMAR activities into MMPR timelines: Authorizations to Possess, Personal-Use Production Licences, and Designated-Person Production Licences were extending beyond March 31, 2014 until a decision in Allard is rendered. How could medical users get medicine if their old producers were phased out and the new ones not in operations?
Having learnt from many years of experience at managing the MMAR, Health Canada benefits from the fear-induced wisdom gleaned from trials and errors at the complicated edge of new policy implementation to support Canada’s 28,076 registered medical marijuana users as of December 31, 2012. We note that the number of license to possess over a two-fold increase in the one since January 2012 with 13,782 persons with permits to possess dry marijuana per Health Canada’s website on January 31, 2012.
The MMPR regulations aim to correct the inadequacies of the 13 year-old MMAR framework, which were set in motion in June 2001 when the Government of Canada was ordered to decriminalize therapeutic marijuana. Under MMAR and until March 31, 2014, medical marijuana users could grow their own material or delegate its growth to a third party through a Designated Production License. In practice this meant thousands of people grew medical marijuana in basements, apartment buildings or dedicated warehouse facilities.
On December 31, 2012 11,601 persons were legally permitted to produce medical marijuana in Canada, causing an industry that was theoretically impossible to monitor and enforce: Health Canada has emitted 9,369 production licenses and 2,232 Designated Person Production Licenses. To the regulators, this meant it had no control of the quality and the quantities cannabis material being produced and being diverted toward recreational use as the MMAR regulations were amenable to diversion to black market use because quantities produced were uncontrolled. For clarity, it is a certainty that MMAR producers diverted material toward recreational use. But under MMPR, a limited number of licensed producers are subjected to strict rules for accounting their material is only sold to licensed marijuana users.
Fire prevention also prompted the inception of the MMPR regulations. Under MMAR production was possible in dwellings, detached houses, apartment buildings or dedicated facilities. However, the cultivation of cannabis normally entails the use of grow lights such as sodium lights with a high demand for power and which generate excessive heat, which in turn can cause fire hazard if used in areas with poor ventilation.
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With 13 licenses having being granted to License producers and over seven hundred applications still at play, there is a high level of uncertainty across the industry. Will the number of licenses increase significantly? Health Canada’s website asserts that there is no limit to the number of licenses to be granted. But to believe that there won’t be an upper limit is pink unicorn fantasyland. Perhaps a more introspective question is whether Health Canada has a handle on the demand size and if so what are the consequences on the MMPR on the accretion of medical marijuana users? Will the current producers be able to meet the current quality assurance requirements?
If the Health Canada’s MMPR form for applying to become a licensed producer is to be trusted, the Health Canada is struggling to find a clear path through the MMPR regulations. The MMPR website and forms read like an entitlement program: If thou fit requirements, thou shall be granted a license. He proposals required three things from the applicants:
- Security clearances such that pale in comparison to that of the spy masters.
- A quality assurance program that looks like a PhD thesis and
- A security system as good as a jail.
With these requirements the entry threshold to become a licensed medical marijuana producer is significantly higher than first expected. No doubt these measures will protect the public and limit the chances of leakage into the black market but they cause significant strife to would-be producers. Stumbling across pink unicorns is definitely harder than it seemed at first.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>