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e-2920 (Health)

E-petition
Initiated by Jeremy McIntee from Dunnville, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Minister of Health

Whereas:
  • The existing regime governing the production of medical marijuana, particularly the Part 2 or “designated growers” regime, is rife with abuse as a result of loopholes in the current legislation that impede local officials' and law enforcement’s investigations of growing operations that appear to be in violation of the law, of a lack of oversight from Health Canada of growing facilities, and of individuals obtaining extraordinarily large prescriptions to be grown by designated growers, and said prescriptions being magnitudes in excess of what a normal medical use prescription would be;
  • Many Type 2/Designated growing operations have reached the scale of commercial operations, yet are not required to implement the types of controls in their facilities that safeguard the products they grow or minimize odour, or environmental impact of neighbouring areas; and
  • Indications are that a growing number of designated growing facilities are linked to organized crime and are suppling the contraband market.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Minister of Health to:
1. Take immediate action to address the aforementioned issues within Canada’s Medical Marijuana framework;
2. Eliminate the existing loopholes; and
3. Provide law enforcement with the tools they need to swiftly and successfully investigate and prosecute unlawful designated grow operations, and implement safeguards to ensure that these facilities do not negatively impact the quality of life of Canadian residents.

Response by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): JOËL LIGHTBOUND, M.P.

In advance of the coming into force of the Cannabis Act (2018), the RCMP was allocated $67.8M over 5 years and $32.9M ongoing to conduct activities related to cannabis in the following areas: Enforcement, Intelligence, Training, Systems Modification and Data Management, Public Awareness, and Security Screening.

This includes funding to increase the RCMP’s Federal Policing (FP) program’s capacity to: 

o          produce actionable intelligence products;

o          conduct research into criminal responses to the legalized cannabis regime;

o          develop and deliver training materials to FP personnel;

o          provide subject matter expertise to police of jurisdiction and partners in select divisions;

o          coordinate investigative responses with different divisions; and

o          develop and deliver targeted prevention and outreach activities.

 

The RCMP intelligence analysts generate actionable intelligence to counter the threat of organized crime in the licit and illicit markets. Intelligence analysts also coordinate with Health Canada, Canada Post, and police of jurisdiction to identify opportunities to collect, develop, disseminate, and action intelligence targeting organized crime.

The RCMP continues to monitor intelligence trends concerning cannabis, including organized crime groups’ infiltration of the licit market, organized crime groups’ involvement in the illicit market, financial crime, international drug trafficking through air, sea, and land, and the exploitation of the personal registration regime by organized crime.

To advise on the nature and extent of organized criminal involvement in the legitimate and illegitimate cannabis market, the RCMP also established cannabis coordinator positions. In keeping with its mandate to investigate the most severe threats to the safety and security of Canada, these resources continue to coordinate and advance transnational serious and organized crime investigations nationwide.    

Response by the Minister of Health

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Patty Hajdu

Successive court decisions established the right of individuals to have reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes and have emphasized repeatedly that the government may only restrict an individual’s access to cannabis for medical purposes when such action is justified and consistent with the objective of protecting public health and safety. In response to these court decisions, a legal framework was established and under the Cannabis Regulations, individuals with a signed medical document from their health care practitioner can access cannabis for medical purposes by:

  • purchasing quality-controlled cannabis from a wide variety of federally licensed sellers inspected by Health Canada;
  • producing a limited amount of cannabis for their own medical purposes as authorized by their health care practitioner (“personal production”); or
  • designating someone to produce it for them (“designated production”).

The majority of individuals (approximately 375,000) who access cannabis for medical purposes obtain cannabis from a seller licensed and inspected by Health Canada. A smaller number of individuals (approximately 43,000) produce a limited amount of cannabis for their own medical purposes, or designate someone to produce it for them.

Health Canada is committed to protecting patients’ rights to reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes and recognizes that most patients are using the program for its intended purposes. Abuse of the medical framework undermines the integrity of the system that many patients rely on to access cannabis to address their medical needs.

All persons authorized to produce cannabis for medical purposes must abide by the law and operate at all times within the limits set out when they were registered by Health Canada, including respecting their plant limits. Individuals are only authorized to produce and possess cannabis for their own medical purposes (or the individual they are designated to produce for), and it is illegal for them to distribute or sell cannabis to anyone else. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in revocation of their registration and/or criminal charges and prosecution.

Health Canada actively works within the current regulatory framework to address risks associated with the personal and designated production of cannabis for medical purposes by:

  • conducting additional verifications when warranted (for example, contacting the health care practitioner to confirm the validity of the medical document and to confirm the daily dosage amount);
  • verifying that there are no more than four registrations at any given production site—the maximum allowed in the regulations—to reduce the risk of large-scale production sites;
  • refusing or revoking a registration, if it is determined that an applicant has submitted false or misleading information as part of their application, such as a forged medical document or where the registration is likely to create a risk to public health or public safety, including the risk of cannabis being diverted to an illicit market or activity; and,
  • conducting inspections of personal registration and designated production sites to further verify compliance with the regulations.

The Cannabis Regulations require patients to obtain an authorization from their health care practitioner to access cannabis for medical purposes. Health Canada does not play a role in determining whether cannabis is appropriate for a patient. The health care practitioner makes this decision through a discussion with their patient; the health care practitioner will also identify the daily amount needed for the patient’s medical condition. Health Canada expects health care practitioners to make these decisions based on the condition for which the patient is receiving treatment and supported by available evidence.

Over the last years, Health Canada has increased engagement with the health care practitioner community and the provincial and territorial licensing bodies in order to encourage health care practitioners to authorize appropriate amounts of cannabis for medical purposes, in line with established standards of practice and the best available evidence.  Health Canada has published a document entitled Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) and the cannabinoids to help patients and health care practitioners make informed decisions about the benefits and risks of using cannabis for medical purposes, including dosage amounts. The Department continues to review the latest developments in the peer-reviewed scientific literature on dosing and will continue to publish further updates to this document.

The regulation of health care practitioners and the practice of medicine is the responsibility of provinces and territories and professional colleges. Most provincial and territorial licensing bodies have their own set of standards and guidelines for their members, which may include codes of practice on authorizing cannabis for medical purposes. In December 2020, Health Canada began publishing additional data on daily-authorized amounts by jurisdiction, increasing transparency of where the higher authorizations exist in an effort to support provincial or territorial medical regulatory (licensing) authorities in their oversight of authorizing practices in their jurisdiction. 

It is important to note that different levels of government and law enforcement have roles in maintaining public safety with respect to cannabis. It is the responsibility of municipalities to enforce their bylaws with respect to cannabis production, and law enforcement has the authority to take action against illegal cannabis activity under the Cannabis Act and against those who operate outside of the legal framework.

With each registration issued, Health Canada reminds registered individuals and designated producers that they need to comply with all relevant provincial/territorial and municipal laws, including local by-laws about zoning, noise, odour, electrical and fire safety, as well as all related inspection and remediation requirements.

Health Canada encourages all provinces, territories, and municipalities to use the tools at their disposal to confirm that individuals meet all standards and by-laws. This includes implementing any limitations on zoning, location and nuisances, such as odour, that they feel are appropriate in their jurisdictions. Municipalities could, for example, require building permits and inspections of electrical work at personal production sites.

Health Canada supports law enforcement representatives by providing a dedicated service 24 hours a day and seven days a week to confirm, when necessary, that specific individuals are authorized to possess or produce a limited amount of cannabis for medical purposes.  The Cannabis Regulationsauthorize Health Canada to share information that is protected under the Privacy Act in the context of an active law enforcement investigation. In the context of an investigation, law enforcement also has the ability to enter residences and any production sites.

The Cannabis Act requires that the Minister initiate a review of the Cannabis Act three years following the coming into force (i.e., by October 17, 2021), and that a report of the review’s findings be tabled before both Houses of Parliament within 18 months of the start of the review. This review must study the Act and its administration and operation, including a review of the impact of the Act on public health and, in particular, on the health and consumption habits of young persons with respect to cannabis use; the impact of cannabis on Indigenous persons and communities; and the impact of the cultivation of cannabis plants in a dwelling-house.

The Government of Canada has also committed to actively monitoring and evaluating patients’ access to cannabis for medical purposes through the implementation of the Cannabis Act, and to undertake an evaluation of the existing medical access framework within five years (i.e., by October 17, 2023), as recommended by the expert Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation.

Open for signature
October 22, 2020, at 4:49 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
January 20, 2021, at 4:49 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk)
February 5, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00497)
Government response tabled
March 22, 2021
Photo - Diane Finley
Haldimand—Norfolk
Conservative Caucus
Ontario
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