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New Medical Marijuana Regulations In Effect July 30, 2001

Medical Update Memo
JULY 13, 2001

Summary
New government of Canada regulations governing possession and production of marijuana for medical purposes will come into effect on July 30, 2001. People with MS who have serious pain and/or persistent muscle spasms are covered specifically in the regulations under Category 2. A guide to the regulations and an application form will be available on the Health Canada web site at: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/ocma/bckdr_4-0601.htm or by calling Health Canada's Office of Cannabis Medical Access at 613 954-6540. The MS Society of Canada welcomes Health Canada's initiative in providing a more compassionate system of possession and production for individuals who feel they may benefit from the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The MS Society is pleased that Health Canada and CIHR are providing funding for research to determine if marijuana has potential for use as a medicine.

Details
New government of Canada regulations governing possession and production of marijuana for medical purposes will come into effect on July 30, 2001. The government is also providing research funding and, in addition, has entered into a contract with a company to grow marijuana for medical purposes. Health Minister Allan Rock called the changed regulations "a landmark in our ongoing effort to give Canadians suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses access to marijuana for medical purposes." The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling July 31, 2000 in the case of Regina v. Parker prompted changes to the regulations.

People with MS who have serious pain and/or persistent muscle spasms are covered specifically in the regulations under Category 2. Category 1 is for applicants who have terminal illnesses. Category 2 applicants must provide a declaration from a medical specialist to support their applications. The applicant must confirm that conventional treatments have been tried or considered and found to be medically inappropriate.

Successful applicants who receive an authorization to possess medical marijuana are allowed to have a maximum 30-day treatment supply. They can also hold a licence of production to grow their own marijuana or choose to have a designated person grow it for them. Plans are underway for medical grade marijuana to be grown under licence to Health Canada and subsequently be made available to people who have an authorization to possess medical marijuana for medical purposes.

A guide to the regulations and an application form will be available on the Health Canada web site at:
www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/ocma/bckdr_4-0601.htm
or by calling Health Canada's Office of Cannabis Medical Access at 613 954-6540.

Health Canada made proposed regulations public in April and asked for public input. The new regulations include several changes:

  • Individuals will manage their own authorizations and licences, not needing to have them held by physicians as under the original proposal.

  • Growing restrictions have been modified to allow more flexibility in urban areas. However, precautions must be taken for meaningful security.

  • People who were granted exemptions previously under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act will be given a reasonable amount of time to comply with the new regulations.

  • Health Canada will provide an identification card to all authorized individuals and holders of production licences.

Marijuana Research
There is little scientific evidence that marijuana, either in a smoked form or its active ingredients processed into capsules, is effective for medical purposes. Claims of benefit are largely anecdotal although a little research with animals has found some benefit in temporarily controlling spasticity and tremor in an MS-like animal model. Research is underway in Great Britain which should provide more information in the future.

Health Canada has established a research program to investigate the medical use of marijuana. The first study to be funded is a pilot study on patterns and prevalence of cannabis use among people living with HIV/AIDS. Additional research is anticipated from this study.

Funding is available through the Health Canada/Canadian Institutes of Health Research Medical Marijuana Research Program. The MS Society of Canada has advised MS clinics of the availability of the funding program. As yet, there are no studies underway in Canada involving MS and marijuana.

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada Viewpoint
The MS Society of Canada welcomes Health Canada's initiative in providing a more compassionate system of possession and production for individuals who feel they may benefit from the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The MS Society is pleased that Health Canada and CIHR are providing funding for research to determine if marijuana has potential for use as a medicine. Properly controlled clinical trials should provide better information as to the drug's potential benefit.

In addition, the MS Society is collecting the names and contact information from individuals who wish to be considered if a clinical trial of MS and marijuana takes place. Those who are interested can forward their names and contact information to their division office or directly to the national office in care of:

National Communications and Social Action Department
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
250 Bloor St. E., Suite 1000
Toronto ON M4W 3P9
Fax: 416 922-7538
E-mail: info@mssociety.ca

For more information on the Health Canada medical marijuana program see the ministry web site:
www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/ocma/bckdr_4-0601.htm

Disclaimer
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is an independent, voluntary health agency and does not approve, endorse or recommend any specific product or therapy but provides information to assist individuals in making their own decisions.

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