ACMPR: Greater Access to Medical Cannabis for Canadian Patients?
Changes to the Medical Cannabis Landscape in Canada
With so many changes ahead on both the medical and recreational cannabis landscapes, the issues of patient access and patient care are at the forefront.
August 24, 2016 marks the day that the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) will take effect in order to provide Canadian medical cannabis patients with greater access to cannabis products. Last week, the Government of Canada released a document aimed at helping Canadians understand the new regulations; the full details of the new regulations are expected to be released next week.
How is the ACMPR Different from the MMAR and MMPR?
The new regulations are Health Canada’s response to the February 2016 Allard decision and provide Canadians with the opportunity to cultivate cannabis for medical purposes in a manner similar to the older MMAR (Marihuana Medical Access Regulations). However, the ACMPR are a new set of regulations and are distinct from both the current MMPR (Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations) and the MMAR. Under the ACMPR, patients can still access medical cannabis products, both dried cannabis and oils, from one of over 30 Health Canada Licensed Producers. In the same way that the current MMPR provides patients with quality controlled, laboratory-tested medical cannabis products, the new ACMPR will continue to do the same.
In addition, under the ACMPR, patients can make the choice to grow a limited amount of cannabis products or designate a registered grower to cultivate cannabis on their behalf. Whether patients choose to purchase cannabis product from a Health Canada Licensed Producer or through personal cultivation by themselves or a designate grower, they will have to respect the quantity limit, in grams, set forth by the authorizing physician. Where personal or designated cultivation is concerned, for every authorized gram per day, patients are able to cultivate up to 5 indoor or 2 outdoor cannabis plants.
Limited Patient Access Under the ACMPR
Even with the new regulations, patient access to medical marijuana remains one of the biggest challenges. The new ACMPR regulations are aimed at providing greater access to patients by enabling patients to choose personal (or designate) cultivation practices in addition to having the option to purchase cannabis products from a Licensed Producer.
However, while the ACMPR does increase patient access to medical marijuana, somewhat, it does not address many of the issues historically faced by patients under the previous MMAR and MMPR systems.
Healthcare Providers as Gatekeepers to Patient Care Under the ACMPR
One of the biggest challenges patients continue to face is access to healthcare providers who may assess their eligibility for medical marijuana. Although research indicates that cannabis provides therapeutic benefits for a number of medical conditions and symptoms, including, but not limited to, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer-related pain, nausea and vomiting, many patients still face hurdles in their attempts to obtain authorization for medical cannabis from their healthcare providers. Within the new ACMPR regulations, physicians continue to assume to role of the gatekeeper, which, in many cases, limits patients’ ability to access this much needed treatment option. Many healthcare providers lack access to medical cannabis education themselves, and are therefore not always appropriately positioned to provide the necessary care to their patients. Furthermore, regulatory guidelines, such as those issued by the CFPC, present additional restrictions for physicians who may be inclined to suggest medical cannabis as a treatment option for their patients.
Limits of Health Canada Licensed Producers
Another issue encountered by many patients, regardless of the Licensed Producer with whom they have registered, is related to the availability of cannabis oils or other derivatives which have yet to be incorporated into the market. Although there are many ways for patients to use medical cannabis to help manage their symptoms or condition, the current market is restricted to dried cannabis product and the all too often “out-of-stock” cannabis oils.
Cost of Medical Cannabis in Canada
While most Licensed Producers offer compassionate pricing for patients below a certain income bracket, the cost of medical marijuana remains beyond reach for many. Organizations such as CFAMM (Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana) aim to reduce some of the financial burdens faced by patients, but, unfortunately, are not in a position to address the nation-wide issue of the cost of medical cannabis treatment for many. The ACMPR do not make mention of any efforts to help mitigate the financial burdens faced by a large number of medical cannabis patients in Canada.
Medical Cannabis Patient Education
Quality patient education services are still out of reach for many patients, especially for those unfamiliar with the current regulatory frameworks. Questions related to strain selection, dosing, modes of administration, side-effects, contraindications and efficient registration with a Licensed Producer, too often remain unanswered for many patients.
The new ACMPR is certainly a step in the right direction on a long road to promoting stigma-free patient access to medical cannabis. However, patient education services by qualified healthcare professionals remain inaccessible for many patients.
About GrowWise Health
GrowWise Health provides complimentary medical cannabis education services to patients for whom medical cannabis may be an appropriate treatment option. GrowWise Health Patient Educators provide services for patients in Toronto, Brampton, North York, Niagara Region/Fort Erie and across Ontario and Canada.
In an effort to promote greater access for patients, the GrowWise Health team helps patients connect with healthcare providers who may assess their candidacy for medical cannabis. GrowWise Health Patient Educators assist patients in selecting the strain(s) most appropriate for their condition and symptoms and provide guidance on dosing, safety and modes of administration. The GrowWise Health team provides medical cannabis patients with ongoing support to help improve their quality of life.
For more information on how to access GrowWise Health patient services, or to connect with a healthcare provider, please contact us here.
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