The province and Ottawa appear to be in a bit of a disagreement over new regulations concerning medicinal marijuana scheduled to take effect April 1, 2014.
According to a May 2013 “issue note” the Straight obtained through a freedom of information request, the B.C. Ministry of Health has “strongly objected” to some of the changes that the federal government is implementing.
With the switch from the old regulations to the Conservatives’ new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (MMPR), licence holders will only be allowed to purchase dried cannabis via mail order from a small number of large-scale producers. That will rescind more than 11,500 British Columbians’ licences to grow medicinal marijuana and call into question the future of storefront dispensaries.
According to the issue note, which is dated May 2013, the B.C. Health Ministry opposed certain provisions of the new rules in talks with Health Canada held in September 2011 and again in February 2012.
Specifically, the province expressed concerns regarding the MMPR only providing for the selling of dried marijuana (excluding options such as edibles), and that price increases will likely follow the discontinuation of personal production licences. “Affordability could be a challenge for low income patients”, the memo states.
The B.C. Health Ministry also described as “very concerning” Health Canada’s plans to allow medical practitioners to sell cannabis, which the province suggested could create a potential conflict of interest for health professionals.
“No rationale for this was provided and, as the plan is for patients to be able to obtain cannabis directly by mail, or by delivery to their health care practitioner’s office, it seems to be unnecessary and potentially problematic to allow health care practitioners to sell the products as well,” the note continues.
The document adds that this concern for potential conflicts of interest is shared by the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons and the B.C. College of Registered Nurses.
The issue note states that the federal government had not responded to the province’s feedback.
Certain sections of the document were redacted pursuant to Section 16 of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act, which states that information can be withheld if disclosure is deemed “harmful to intergovernmental relations and negotiations”.
Both Health Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Health declined to make representatives available for interviews on the topic of medicinal marijuana.
In an email to the Straight, B.C. Health Ministry spokesperson Ryan Jabs wrote that Health Canada contacted the province but he declined to provide any specific information.
On October 2, the Straight reported that municipal officials are also unenthusiastic about Ottawa’s new plans for the regulation of medicinal marijuana. That story quoted Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang explaining that medicinal marijuana hasn’t registered as a problem for the city.
“If there has not been an issue with a particular supplier or grower, it doesn’t concern me,” Jang said.