Who Legalized Cannabis in Canada?

Canada was the first country among the G20 to legalize cannabis across the country.  Medical cannabis was made legal at the federal level in July of 2018, prior to that medical use was determined by the individual provincial health ministries.  Recreationally, the Cannabis Act came into effect in October of 2018 allowing for the consumption and possession of cannabis.

Who Legalized Cannabis in Canada?

The short answer to that question is that the Trudeau government was responsible for legalizing cannabis.  Prior to the 2015 election one of the campaign promises made by Trudeau was that he would legalize recreational cannabis use across the country.  In previous interviews Trudeau openly admitted that he had been a recreational cannabis user himself and saw no reason that cannabis should remain illegal.  Citing the success of legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington Trudeau claimed we could see the same success in Canada.  He claimed that the prohibition on marijuana did nothing but make criminal organizations rich while not protecting the community.  Here is Trudeau talking with school children on why he put forth legislation to legalize marijuana.

Creating a Taskforce

True to his election promises, after becoming Prime Minister in 2015 Trudeau went ahead and created a taskforce made up from members of both federal and provincial governments to discuss the process for legalization.  A year later the group released a report of over 100 pages to the public with their recommendations on how legalization would go forth.

Bill C-45 was introduced to Parliament which would see cannabis for sale for recreational use effective July 1, 2018.  However the provincial governments who would be controlling the sale of cannabis would not be ready until later in the year.  The first cannabis stores would not be opened until later in October.

Cannabis Stores

Following legalization the sale of cannabis is to be treated in much the same way that alcohol is regulated and sold.  Cannabis can only be sold by licensed retailers and in most provinces they are government owned.  Cannabis can also only be grown by producers licensed by Health Canada.  To date there are roughly 117 licensed producers supplying the Canadian market.  Canadians wishing to purchase marijuana at one of the licensed retail outlets must also be of age.  The legal age to purchase cannabis is 19 in most provinces and 18 in others.  While the number of stores opening in each province remained fairly low, online sales were also made available and delivery would be made through Canada Post.

What About Vaping?

Vaping Cannabis has been left out of the new regulation of legalizing marijuana. Toronto based vaping store Puff Panda’s believe that this is unfair of the current legislation and that it should be updated.

Enhanced Laws to Protect Children

Throughout the legalization process Trudeau has maintained that by legalizing and controlling the sale of cannabis Canada would be in a better position to ensure the safety of minors and to keep marijuana out of the hands of children.  Trudeau maintains that black market sales of cannabis do not ask their customers for ID nor will they refuse to sell to teenagers.  On the other hand by taking the market away from criminal organizations and the revenue the government was in a better position to enforce the laws and ensure cannabis was sold to adults.

At the same time there are regulations in place that limits the amount of purchase, growing your own, where you can legally consume cannabis and when it will be made available for sale.  The new Cannabis Act that also legalized cannabis also imposed stiffer penalties for supplying cannabis to minors and driving while under the influence of cannabis.  It also made sure that cannabis would be taxed.

Regulations Across the Country

While legalization was done at the federal level the distribution and sale of cannabis is managed by the provinces, much in the same way that alcohol is managed.  There are some very strict regulations regarding the marketing or advertising of cannabis.  Much like tobacco companies in Canada cannabis companies are prohibited from advertising on media outlets, they cannot sponsor sporting events or facilities.  The provinces are able to determine how and where cannabis can be sold along with where it can be consumed including private residences.

Revenue Generated by Cannabis Sales

While the sale of recreational cannabis has been available across Canada for less than a year and there have definitely some kinks to work out in regards to production and distribution.  Regardless of that fact cannabis sales have generated almost $200 million in revenue just from the sale of cannabis alone.  However this falls short of the projected revenue most attribute that to the fact that the provinces, particularly Quebec and Ontario weren’t ready for the October launch dates.  The projected revenue for the remainder of the first year of sales is expected to be higher and will stabilize once the logistics have been sorted out.  Canada is hoping to see the same type of success that both Colorado and Washington have had with legalization.  Higher tax revenues and lower crime rates, but that remains to be seen.

 

Who Can Prescribe Cannabis in Canada 

As the legalization of cannabis in Canada nears its one year anniversary there is still a fair bit of confusion surrounding the legalities of medical cannabis versus recreations and who can prescribe cannabis in Canada.  Medical cannabis has been available in Canada for almost 20 years yet many Canadians are still unsure where to go to get legal medical cannabis.  Let’s explore the situation concerning medical cannabis in Canada.

Uses for Medical Cannabis in Canada

Since recreational cannabis has become legal you no longer need a prescription to access cannabis however if you want to use it for medical purposes then you are better off with getting a prescription.  Medical cannabis is used across Canada to treat a variety of conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, cancer, insomnia and PTSD.  Provincial health departments which oversee medical cannabis do not put a restriction on having a qualifying condition in order to get medical cannabis you need to discuss your options with your doctor.

That being said despite cannabis proponents touting the numerous benefits of medical marijuana it is not for everyone.  There are patients who should not use medical cannabis.  Patients who suffer from respiratory conditions or a history of psychosis will not likely convince a doctor to prescribe medical cannabis.  Pregnant or nursing mothers and minors are also not going to get medical cannabis either.

Getting a Prescription

All you need to get medical cannabis in Canada is a prescription from a licensed and practicing physician.  You don’t need to go to a specialist or get any kind of special approval or licensing.  However that is not necessarily as easy as it sounds.  For years cannabis has carried a lot of stigma surrounding it and even today there are still many medical professionals who don’t believe in the value of medical cannabis and won’t prescribe it.

So what do you do if your family physician refuses to prescribe medical cannabis for you?  If you are using cannabis to treat pain then you should ask for a referral to a pain clinic or another specialist who may be more amenable.  The same holds for your specialist, if your oncologist won’t prescribe it then you may want to talk to your family physician.  You may also want to look for a medical cannabis clinic in your area.

Dealing with a Cannabis Clinic

Despite being very pro marijuana a cannabis clinic still won’t prescribe medical cannabis to just anyone walking in off the street.  You are still going to have to demonstrate a medical need in order to get a prescription.  That means you are going to want to bring your pertinent medical records with you, that can include referrals, current prescriptions, results from medical tests like x-rays or an MRI and so forth.

If you don’t live near a clinic there are some clinics that do offer remote or virtual consultations but that will largely depend on the province that you are in.  What is available in Ontario may not be available to patients in Nova Scotia.  You will have to check what is available in your province.

Medical Cannabis and Getting Stoned

Two common questions a potential cannabis patient may ask are “do I have to smoke?” and “will I get stoned?”  The answer to that is no, you don’t necessarily have to do either.  Research into the value and uses of medical cannabis is still fairly new and there is a lot left to learn.  What we do know is that THC and CBD are the two components in cannabis that bring most of the benefits.

THC is the ingredient that is responsible for the high feeling it can also be the ingredient that is responsible for anxiety and paranoia sometimes associated with marijuana use. CBD on the other hand is what helps treat anxiety and it doesn’t provide any kind of high.  Medical patients with a prescription are able to access cannabis of varying strengths whether they want very little THC or need higher amounts to treat their condition.  You should also note that smoking isn’t a requirement you can use a vapourizer or use cannabis edibles instead of smoking cannabis.

Getting Your Prescription Filled

Before legalization of recreational marijuana you had to go get a license once you had a prescription and then bring this license to a dispensary to get your prescription filled.  Today you can take your prescription to Shopper’s Drug Mart and get it filled right there, they are probably the biggest licensed dispensary in the country with stores all over the country.  You can get your prescription delivered by your local pharmacy right to your door.

Will it be Covered by Insurance

In some cases insurance companies have included cannabis as part of the schedule of drugs that they will cover.  However most people should be prepared to pay out of pocket for the cost of their prescription.