Accessing medical cannabis is a relatively straightforward process in Canada, but has several steps and gatekeepers to be noted. Health Canada administer the regulation of the production, distribution, and use of medical cannabis through the ‘Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations’ (ACMPR). This post will survey the steps involved and how Hello Cannabis can help you access cannabis for medical purposes.

There are six steps included in the process to becoming a medical cannabis patient in Canada:

  1. Talk to your doctor about whether medical cannabis is a suitable option for you
  2. Obtain a referral from your doctor to a cannabis education centre, and see a prescribing physician
  3. Meet with a Cannabis Educator to discuss which strains, form of cannabis, and Licensed Producer would work best for you
  4. Register with your Licensed Producer
  5. Once your registration is processed by the Licensed Producer, contact your Cannabis Educator for specific recommendations and assistance in placing your first order
  6. Follow the recommended dosage and titration schedule provided by your Cannabis Educator

There is clinical evidence that shows that cannabis has a wide range of medical applications, from chronic pain to glaucoma, appetite loss and nausea, PTSD, anxiety, and seizures

(Dowsett et al 2017; McCormick et al 2017; Greydanus & Merrick 2016; Hand et al 2016; Hart et al 2010; Wachtel et al 2002).

 

 

The use of medical cannabis is a decision made between a patient and their physician. Not all doctors are open to prescribing medical cannabis, but most will be willing to refer to an education centre, particularly if they are given medical evidence that suggests medical cannabis may be beneficial to a patient’s condition. Should your doctor be open to prescribing or referring, they will assess your suitability based on your condition, risk factors, and other indicators.

In either case, the prescribing physician will sign off on a Medical Document confirming your legal access. There’s a common misconception that this document functions as a “Green Card” or a “License,” when in fact it is a long form access document that gives you the ability to purchase medical cannabis from a Licensed Producer. The next step in the process is to register with a Licensed Producer that offers strains that will assist in easing your symptoms. The LP will then process your registration and Medical Document; it’s important to note that you will not actually receive a physical version of the medical document, as it will be forwarded directly to your Cannabis Educator, who will help you select a Licensed Producer, then send off your document accordingly.

You can only legally receive cannabis in Canada (as of January 2018) if you have a document signed by a medical professional and if you order directly from an LP, through online or phone ordering, delivered by mail.  As you do not get to keep your medical document, your “license to carry” and possession limits will be printed directly on the container that you receive your cannabis in: it’s important to keep these containers, as well as your receipt for purchase.

Once you have ordered – or before – consult with your Cannabis Educator about your dosage, schedule, and how to track how effective your treatment plan is. Your doctor may suggest that you maintain a journal to document your dosage, schedule, and your reactions to your treatment. Your Cannabis Educator is always a call away if you need any information or help with dosage, strain selection, or ordering.

The duration of your access document varies between a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 12 months; these durations are based on a variety of factors, as assessed by your prescribing physician. These duration limits are important, as your Cannabis access will be considered “expired” by your LP once the duration is completed, and you will no longer be able to order your medicine. Most physicians will require an in-person appointment in order to renew your access, to ensure that your medicine is working for you. These appointments are an important part of your circle of care and ensure the best medical service possible.

If you have any questions about the process or the legislation, please feel free to reach out to our Patient Educators at any time!

 

References

Dowsett, L.E. et al. (2017). Cannabis Evidence Series: An Evidence Synthesis. Calgary: Government of Alberta.

Greydanus, D.E., & Merrick, J. (2016). Cannabis or marijuana: A review. Journal of Pain Management, 9(4), 347-373.

Hart, C.L., Ilan, A.B., Gevins, A., Gunderson, E.W., and others (2010). Neurophysiological and cognitive effects of smoked marijuana in frequent users. Pharmacology Biochemical and Behaviour, 96, 333-341.

Hand, A., Blake, A., Kerrigan, P., Samuel, P., Friedberg, J. (2016). History of Medical Cannabis. Journal of Pain Management, 9(4), 94.

McCormick, M. et al. (2017). The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington: The National Academies Press.

Wachtel, S. et al (2002). Comparison of the Subjective Effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and marijuana in humans. Psychopharmacology, 161(4), 331-339.