Cannabis for legal medical purposes has been legal since 2001, and on October 17, 2018, Canada will become the second country in the world, and the first G20 nation to legalize the use of recreational cannabis, under the implementation of Bill C-45, AKA The Cannabis Act.
However, not all types of recreational marijuana will be permitted beginning in October 2018. The Bill permits the legal sale and use of dried cannabis, cannabis oil, and cannabis seeds. However, cannabis edibles and cannabis concentrates were excluded, for now. Health Canada, the federal agency in Canada responsible for public health, decided that more time was needed to develop regulations for these types of cannabis products. Finalization of these regulations is expected sometime in 2019.
Medical Access- ACMPR
The current Canadian framework allowing Canadians access to medical cannabis is found in the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (the “ACMPR”), which has been in place as of Aug. 24, 2016, and sets out the current legal structure of Canada’s evolving medical cannabis framework.
Health Canada is the Canadian federal department responsible for licensing and overseeing the commercial medical cannabis industry and registering individuals to produce cannabis for their own medical purposes. Under the licensing process, Health Canada can authorize each Licensed Producer (known as an “LP”) to cultivate, process, sell, import/export and other related activities, and Licensed Dealers to test, transport and deliver cannabis as well as sell to authorized persons, among other related activities.
Current access is restricted to purchasing from LP’s, online.
As is the case with medical marijuana, recreational marijuana will be supplied by licensed producers or can be grown by Canadians for their own use. Under the proposed regulations, each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories are responsible for implementing a distribution and retail sale framework for the sale of cannabis for non-medical purposes. If a province or territory has not created the above framework by October 17, 2018, the regulations will allow the Canadian federal government to implement a mail order system in that province or territory.
As of October 17, 2018, the Ontario Cannabis Store website will be the only legal option for purchasing recreational cannabis. It will follow strict rules set by the federal government.
The government has also introduced legislation that, if passed, would assist the province moving forward with a tightly regulated private retail model for cannabis that would open by April 1, 2019. The legislation would have the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) as the provincial regulator authorized to grant store licences. The Ontario Cannabis Store would be the exclusive wholesaler to these stores.
The Crown Corporation has the contract to deliver cannabis for the government’s online store that opens for business Oct. 17, the day recreational cannabis is legalized across Canada.
Canada Post will deliver the dried flower, oil, pre-rolled joints and cannabis seeds that will be for sale on Day 1, according to the website.
The Ontario Cannabis Store will probably be the largest online seller of cannabis in the country.
The online store will be the only legal channel for Ontarian’s to buy cannabis for nearly six months after legalization. The provincial Conservative government plans to licence private businesses to operate bricks-and-mortar cannabis stores, but when they would be able to open remains uncertain.
This leaves Ontario Medical Patients in a bind, for several reasons:
This will make recreational cannabis easier to access than medical cannabis and risk pushing patients into the recreational stream.
There are several issues that arise when patients can only order their medicine online. What if they don’t have a computer or a credit card? What if their order takes days to arrive? What if it gets lost in the mail? What happens if the mail delivery service goes on strike? Who can they ask questions to? How do they know what to purchase?
You cannot replicate the type of education patients needs in an online shopping website like you can in brick-and-mortar storefront. Cannabis selection is a tactile experience, where patients want the option to smell and see their product.
No legal allowances for access to cannabis edibles and concentrates leaves medical patients without the access they need to clean, safe, cannabis in varied doses and applications.
How many stores will there be? What cities will they be in? These are questions with no current answer. The government won’t have a framework ready until at the very earliest April, and Ontario’s cities – which are holding municipal elections on Oct. 22 – get a one-time option to opt out of having brick and mortar shops. So, on Oct. 17, Ontarian’s can buy online through the government retailer, but not in bricks-and-mortar shops.
This limited access may leave Canadian’s with not enough supply, limited variety and possible ordering wait times, not to mention minimal consumer support through online sites.