Medical marijuana users in Canada will be allowed to grow their own pot again, after Health Canada rolled out new regulations Thursday in response to a court decision.
The new regulations announced today go into effect in two weeks. But with legalization of the drug looming, today’s rules could soon change again, leaving people in the booming marijuana business still wondering what the future holds.
The former Conservative government scrapped home-grow permits in 2013, bringing in rules that meant the only legal way to get medical cannabis was through mail-order purchases from licensed producers.
Last year, a federal court in Vancouver struck that system down, and the Liberal government said it wouldn’t appeal. Today Health Canada rolled out new regulations, that go into effect August 24th
Under the new rules, patients with an authorization from a doctor can register with Health Canada to grow their own marijuana, or designate someone to grow it for them. They’ll be given a limited number of plants they’re allowed to grow, based on their daily dose, and expected yield of each plant.
Home or designated growers will be required to buy their seeds or starter plants from Canada’s 34 licensed marijuana producers. And while patients can continue to mail-order cannabis from the licensed producers, Health Canada stressed storefront sales remain illegal.
“Storefronts selling marijuana, commonly known as “dispensaries” and “compassion clubs” are not authorized to sell cannabis for medical or any other purposes,” read a statement.
“These operations are illegally supplied, and provide products that are unregulated and may be unsafe. Illegal storefront distribution and sale of cannabis in Canada are subject to law enforcement action.”
But at Victoria’s Trees dispensary, the company welcomed the government’s move to open up home- and designated production.
“We think this is a major step forward, this is a major step forward for access for patients,” said the company’s community liaison Alex Robb. The chain has three storefronts in Victoria, and one in Nanaimo, which is open again after charges were stayed following RCMP enforcement efforts in that city in December.
Robb isn’t worried that home growers will undercut sales, And as the new home-grow rules also come weeks after Ottawa launched a task force on legalization, and the City of Victoria moves toward regulating marijuana businesses, Trees is betting the future includes dispensaries as a legal option.
“Although Health Canada would like to see the dispensaries closed down, I think the community of medical cannabis users that require this as medicine are still going to keep on coming to dispensaries,” he said.
Bin Huang is CEO of Emerald Health Botanicals in Saanich, one of the Island’s licensed legal producers.
She says the industry also welcomes the new home growing rules.
“We view this as positive news for patients, they have access to more channels to get their cannabis for medical use,” she said. “The market is quite big and the patients who need the product is a large number, so I would see that growing very fast as well.”
“I would think for the industry for the licensed producers it will be business as usual but for patients its positive because they have better access to the supplies.”
But with a lot of money on the line, and patients in the lurch, producers and dispensaries alike are eager for Ottawa to decide what the future of cannabis sales will be.
“I’m not a legal expert myself, I don’t know what the solution should be, but I do think the quicker the government can resolve this dilemna, the better it is for patients and that’s who we care [for] most,” said Huang.