Cannabis Regulation Roullette


This blog by Jamie Shaw originally appeared on You can see Jamie moderate a panel of legal experts at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference, October 13-14. 

The carousel of Canada’s cannabis regulations continues to revolve. With Health Canada’s announcement of the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), my autocorrect gets to learn a new acronym. Other than that, it’s difficult to see how these new regulations effectively change anything, not only in terms of the perceived and actual shortcomings of the MMAR, or the perceived or actual shortcomings of the MMPR.

While it’s hard to accurately assess regulations we haven’t seen yet, Health Canada has graciously provided a document entitled ‘Understanding The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purpose Regulations’, a fact sheet, and a helpful safety bulletin suggesting things like, maybe getting a taller fence, or a lock.

They did finally acknowledge that marijuana/marihuana is actually cannabis, and that’s a start towards some clarity, but let’s look at the rest of what they announced.

One major issue both municipalities and law enforcement had with the old MMAR was their inability to inspect personal grows. HC was not allowed, for privacy reasons, to divulge patient addresses. (Oh sure they did it anyway, but that was an accident. You see, a clerk purchased the wrong kind of envelopes that had too big a transparent window, and no one noticed until it was too late. Oops.) Even when law or bylaw enforcement stumbled on patient grows by accident, the confusing documentation and revolving regulations that came from the government and the courts playing Hot Potato with cannabis laws left them more than a little confused.

When the MMPR came in, a legal opinion circulated that cities had to zone for licensed producers, and if they didn’t, patients would sue them for lack of access to medicine. Despite the fact that this made no sense in the context of the MMPR, many cities did exactly that. There has been no corresponding legal opinion for the MMAR, or the new ACMPR, no corresponding plea to municipalities for the patients. What Health Canada has done is explicitly state that all registered and designated growers must follow all provincial and municipal bylaws, including any inspection requirements. While we may see municipalities design and implement bylaws around personal growing, others will likely have to amend the ones they crafted with Licensed Producers in mind, but really, most will probably understand Health Canada just flipped them the bird. ‘By all means, draft any bylaws that make you feel comfortable, we’ll even tell growers they have to follow them, but good luck enforcing that shit, we still can’t tell you where they are. Oh, and dispensaries? Still illegal, sort it out. No, no, we can’t help or make your job easier in any way, it’s your problem not ours, nothing to do with us. We said it’s illegal, what more do you want?’

Things may be a little easier for law enforcement however. As opposed to authorizations to grow under the old MMAR, Health Canada will also issue ‘registration cards’, not authorizations, not licenses. This does give patients a clear way to identify their current right to grow cannabis to law enforcement, who should like that this card will also list the exact amounts they are allowed to grow and store, as well as the locations.

And the amounts allowed are interesting. With Health Canada’s ratio of ‘5 plants = 1 g’ is it any wonder they got out of the production business? Obviously they know this ratio is a little low, as the ‘safety bulletin’ released this week clearly states what to do in the case you grew over your allowance. The method they recommend for disposing of all your extra cannabis is…yep, still mixing it with cat litter. Still suggesting the best way to get rid of an organic substance is to mix it with an inorganic one… They also advise against burning your extra cannabis, which makes it sound like it’s perfectly legal to do so, they just advise against it. This is fortunate for all those that post on social media about losing their cannabis in a series of small fires.

Growers will be allowed to convert their cannabis into other products, though oil still seems to be the only option on offer (oil that cannot be made with an organic solvent, such as butane). However limonene, a terpene that is found in many strains of cannabis, is also an organic solvent…and its hard to say exactly what this means without seeing the actual regulations. I’m assuming they’ll be busy writing them right up to the August 24th date (I remember having to do term papers, I used the same method: don’t start until you’re pretty sure it’s going to be tough to finish in time).

Except for the small number of people covered under the injunction from Allard, everyone else wishing to grow will require the same documentation as required under the current MMPR. Those covered under the injunction will finally be allowed to update or change their authorization information, and all will be required to sign up with a Licensed Producer. They will be the only legal source for seeds, seedlings, or plants. All will also be required to ‘register’ with Health Canada,

If growing outdoors, your limit drops from 5 plants/g up to daily limit, to 2 plants/g. Oh, and you can’t do it if your property borders on a school, playground, or any other ‘public place frequented mainly by minors’…so…none of Chuck E Cheese’s neighbours can grow, no matter how big a fence or how many locks they have.

There are some other changes around testing requirements and labelling, including the mandate that Licensed Producer cannabis be labelled with the percentage of THC and CBD that ‘could be yielded’ including the ‘potential’ that could be converted from THCA and CBDA, ie: “This strain ‘could’ ‘potentially’ be 58% THC.” This number is obviously ridiculous, but the vague wording here ‘could’ ‘potentially’ allow producers to make such claims. Hopefully this is addressed better in the regulations than it was in the press release.

It remains to be seen if the government has effectively dealt with access concerns with both the MMAR and MMPR separately by simply grafting one on to the other. At this point, only the courts can say, but they may not have time. Health Canada has also made it clear these are only temporary regulations, not to be interpreted as their plans for medical access under legalization. While this does seem to indicate there will be some form of medical access under legalization, it also hints that this ain’t it. So, go ahead former MMAR growers, invest in your second legal grow op, sign up with an LP in order to buy back the genetics they bought from you under the MMPR transitional rules, and see where the ball lands when the wheel stops.

Jamie Shaw is a former President of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, a former Director of the BC Compassion Club Society, and co-founder of the first Canadian chapter of Women Grow. She currently consults for dispensaries, serves as Community Engagement Manager at Lift Resource Centres, and is very much looking forward to moderating a panel of Canadian legal experts on these topics at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in Vancouver this October 13th to 14th.

This blog originally appeared on and has been reposted here with special permission.