Adult use, or recreational use, cannabis will be legal for purchase as of Oct. 17, 2018.  On the surface, one would believe this to be a great step in the fight to destigmatize cannabis use and increase the ease of access for patients requiring cannabis as part of their treatment plan, but that is not the case.  Although the legalization of cannabis could lead to more studies conducted on the use of cannabis for various medical conditions limitations and barriers for patients stand to be increased under the new adult-use measures.

It is first important to clarify that medicinal cannabis and adult-use cannabis are very different. Recreational cannabis will not have the same makeup on a consistent basis as medical cannabis does- and so will not be a suitable substitute for a medical need. Medical cannabis is often curated and different strains and applications are recommended based on the properties of the medicine and the patient needs. Just as with any medicine, using the wrong kind for you can lead to over medicating and undesired effects that could deter some patients and provide little to no relief.

Another adverse effect of legalization deals with the taxes to be placed on the product.  The federal government has planned to tax recreational cannabis as well as further tax medical cannabis, which already has federal sales tax in place. Other medications are not subject to this same structure and, in our opinion, cannabis should be no different. Under the current model, there is a limited rebate available to patients in some cases to recoup some of the taxations applied, but again, other medications are not subject to these standards and additional steps in the process leave patients feeling taken advantage of. The medical cannabis community has been urging the government to recognize medical cannabis as a prescription drug, covering the fees by the provincial health plans. Cost of medications and any taxes applied on top of that cost is a critical limitation for many patients – people should be able to reasonably afford their medications.   

Finally, medical cannabis continues to be accessible through mail order only from Licensed Producers (LPs), whereas recreational cannabis will be available in “brick and mortar” storefronts- in varying ways as each province still determines their rollout. This kind of access is something that the medical cannabis community has been pursuing for years. Access to adult-use products stands to inject the Canadian economy with almost as much revenue as the alcohol industry does. Understandably that kind of growth is appealing, but the patient perspective is still being ignored. Patients must still register with an LP, request their medicine and receive it by mail to their registered address. This means if you’re visiting family out of town over the holidays and run out, your refill will not be mailed to you – only to your home. Worse yet, patients that stand to benefit from medicinal cannabis but do not have a home address are left out.

Recreational cannabis use being legalized does not mean that the job of advocating for medical cannabis patients is over.  We need to continue to write our MPs and MPPs, rally at events, and make our voices heard, now more than ever. On behalf of those who need it, Medicinal My Way will continue the fight to remove unconstitutional taxation from medicinal cannabis, create access through “brick and mortar” locations, provide a full range of medication to meet patient needs at these locations- from flower to capsule to oils and beyond – and, support patients in need who face financial, physical, medical or other socio-economic barriers to care.

You can help today by going to our Send A Letter page and letting our government representatives know that they need to improve on the legislation that gives patients access to medical cannabis across our country!