Posted May 15, 2018 by Jana Hepbun

Will Legalization Effect Medical Cannabis?

As recreational cannabis becomes fully legalized this summer, many patients are trying to decipher what this means within the medical cannabis community, and ultimately, how it will affect them. Although we are still awaiting the final approval of the Cannabis Act to know exactly what regulations will exist for the adult-use market post-legalization, Canada’s federal and provincial governments have already begun to roll out extensive regulations and restrictions for the sale, distribution and consumption of recreational cannabis. As a medical patient, it is critical to understand that your approved medical cannabis possession and use is subject to several different rules than those using cannabis without authorization from their physician.

The rules of possession

Under the proposed regulations, non-medical cannabis can only be possessed in increments of up to 30 grams per person in public. However, medical cannabis users will still be allowed to have a 30-day supply per their prescription amount at a time. Therefore, if your monthly allotment is 60 grams, you are allowed to carry that much at a time.

Where cannabis can be used

Depending on your provincial and municipal regulations, non-authorized cannabis use in public may be restricted to as little as no consumption near hospitals, schools or childcare facilities (such as the current regulations proposed in Alberta). In other provinces, such as Ontario, consumption may be banned from anywhere outside of your private residence.

Medical cannabis rules are different, with your legal rights allowing you to smoke or vaporize your medicine in public, as long as it is a location where public tobacco use is also allowed. Oils and edibles for medical purposes only are allowed anywhere.

Cannabis at your job

With legalization looming, employers are becoming more aware and concerned about potential abuse of adult-use cannabis in the workplace. However, all employees are legally bound to be treated within their rights in accordance to federal and provincial policies on using prescription medications in the workplace. While there are exceptions – including patients with safety sensitive occupations, such as driving or operating machinery – employers have a duty to accommodate their employees’ rights to lawfully medicate without discrimination.

This is why continuing as a medical patient is essential when you need to medicate outside of your home. Having a physician-approved authorization will give you more protection when it comes to medicating in public or negotiating cannabis use during work hours, and will help distinguish your consumption as one of medical necessity.

The financial differences

While the proposed federal tax on cannabis products is still set to pertain to both recreational and medical cannabis purchases—a development that the medical cannabis community is vehemently against—the framework does not subject CBD oils (under 0.3% THC) to the excise tax. In addition, the government has spoken of examining options for establishing a rebate program to retroactively reimburse Canadians using medical cannabis.

Another factor that separates recreational from medical cannabis happens during tax season. Patients with a valid prescription for cannabis from a health practitioner who purchase their cannabis from a Licensed Producer can claim those purchases as a medical expense on their taxes. This is great news for many, as medical cannabis can be a financial burden and yet still isn’t covered by most third-party health insurance plans.

Proof to carry

When you have your medical cannabis in public, always keep a form of legal proof with you. This can include your Health Canada-issued registration certificate, the product label from your LP-purchased medicine or the Confirmation of Registration document you received upon registering. This lets you fully prove that your cannabis was lawfully obtained through a physician-approved prescription.

When cannabis is legalized it is up to the individual to decide if continuing as a medical patient is the better choice over purchasing recreational cannabis products. Yet, from where you can use it and how much you can carry to the savings you might incur during tax time, there are many benefits to continuing as a legal medical cannabis patient.

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