Medical hashish producers in Canada are going through robust new guidelines. For some, this might imply dropping their license

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Patient accessibility is at stake as the government plans to tighten restrictions on the cultivation of medicinal cannabis, writes Joel Taylor

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The growthOp The regulator pointed to a perceived discrepancy in the amount of medicinal cannabis grown, as well as licensing infringements and websites for which it was used The regulator pointed to a perceived discrepancy in the amount of medicinal cannabis grown, as well as licensing infringements and websites used for “illegal large-scale production”. Photo by BLAIR GABLE /.REUTERS

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Joel Taylor is the co-founder of Patient Choice, a licensed online medical platform connecting medical cannabis patients, licensed producers and processors.

To combat the illicit market, Health Canada released a plan to tighten restrictions on the cultivation of medicinal cannabis. The regulator pointed to a perceived discrepancy in the amount of medicinal cannabis grown, as well as licensing infringements and websites used for “illegal large-scale production”.

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Although legal cannabis sales overtook illegal transactions in late 2020, the federal government’s focus is still on regulating legacy industries. It has accused some medical growers of supplying the gray market with an estimated $ 2.9 billion a year and now wants expanded powers to remove their licenses. In a guide to outline the proposals, the government pointed to a steady increase in the amount of medicinal cannabis grown, while the amount obtained from licensed manufacturers remained the same.

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Medical cannabis

Crucially, it overlooks the amount of cannabis needed to make efficient medical products and the growth in their adoption. The number of Canadians registered for access to medical cannabis rose 24 percent over the past year, as did the number of patients licensed to grow their own medicine. The market shift is the result of an increasing normalization of cannabis, with seniors accessing the medical framework for the first time.

Many of these patients prefer cannabis oil to smokable flowers as a more convenient method of consumption. To produce a single gram of high-quality oil, at least seven grams of flowers are usually required, depending on the caliber of the raw material. It then requires considerable expertise to properly extract the cannabinoids and terpenes, often using volatile chemicals.

Faced with these challenges, many patients rely on the expertise of certified legal producers to make cannabis oil for them. This is especially true for those who require large quantities on a daily basis, which is rarely financially viable, to repeatedly purchase from outside sources. Producers who make the best medicine attract increased demand and scale production accordingly to meet the needs of their loved ones. This often leads to large but compliant and vital medical cannabis surgery.

Current conformity

The second argument is that Health Canada has found a lack of on-site compliance visits, including unlicensed outdoor manufacturing and high facility counts. However, this points to the strict governance already surrounding the industry and how policies need to be relaxed, not tightened, to protect the supply of medical cannabis. In addition to regular on-site inspections, patients are already subject to zoning laws and strict background checks that prohibit convicted individuals from growing medical cannabis.

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When growing cannabis for medicine, many would be far more likely to experience an excess than a deficiency. To protect against loss as a solid agricultural practice, growers often produce more cannabis than they hope to need. This is especially beneficial when growing outside of Canada and the crops are prone to environmental fluctuations. By punishing those who marginally exceed harvest limits to provide a safety margin, patients are forced to risk drug shortages with potentially dangerous results.

Reasons for Denying Licenses

The final motivation for tightening medical cultivation is perhaps the most worrying as it is a recent trend and has been included in the public guidance document. Health Canada referred to “drug and gun allegations” at manufacturing sites indicating organized crime activities. However, the extent of the problem or the number of arrests were not detailed.

A minority of medical producers are taking advantage of the system and these individuals need to be investigated rather than undertaking major industry reforms. Calling attention to individual incidents and reporting gun crimes can lead to the public accepting the proposals without looking at the bigger picture.

For the first time, the regulator gave reasons for refusing or revoking licenses, such as: B. unlicensed crop sizes and suspicion that cannabis is being diverted to an illegal market. Licenses can also be withdrawn if premises have not been properly secured, administrative errors have occurred and medical cannabis has been shared with others.

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There is concern that these measures could be used on a large scale to significantly reduce the amount of medical cannabis available and its accessibility. With the health of hundreds of thousands, the ability to conveniently obtain medical cannabis from a variety of sources is critical to strengthening the supply chain and mitigating deficits. This includes providing high quality starting materials such as seeds and cuttings that inspire patients to grow at home and less reliant on outside suppliers.

This is not the first time Health Canada has singled out the medical industry. Earlier proposals to tighten the framework, which the Supreme Court failed as recently as 2016, would further discriminate against cannabis patients, perpetuating the stigma surrounding the industry and the misconception that cannabis is inherently dangerous.

Health Canada has invited industry and community stakeholders to provide feedback on their intentions until May 7, 2021. The evaluation of the system is then analyzed and the planned changes published.

Patient Choice is currently gathering responses to suggestions from its robust medical cannabis ecosystem, made up of an ever-increasing number of licensed breeders and registered patients, and will make its recommendation based on their assessment. Submissions for the proposed updates to Health Canada can be made here.

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