On June 19, 2013, the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) were published in the Canada Gazette Part II. The MMPR provide a new way to access marihuana for medical purposes and will operate concurrently with the old Marihuana Medical Access Regulations until they are repealed on March 31, 2014.

Under the new MMPR, Health Canada will no longer issue Personal-Use Production Licences. This system will be replaced by a system of Licensed Producers (LPs) who will grow, harvest, process and sell dry marihuana to individuals who hold a medical document.

In a commitment to ensure a sufficient supply of dry marihuana before April 1st, 2014 (the date by which individuals will exclusively be able to access marihuana from LPs), Health Canada has released various guidance documents to help those who are interested applying to become a LP. The guidance documents detail the general requirements for obtaining a licence, which are aligned with those for controlled drugs. In fact, the new MMPR aims to treat marihuana as much as possible like other narcotics used for medical purposes. The goal is to provide access to quality-controlled marihuana for medical purposes, produced under secure and sanitary conditions.

Producers licences allow LPs to perform activities such as possess, produce, sell,  provide, ship, deliver, transport and destroy marihuana. A person can apply for all activities referred to in the MMPR, or can choose to apply only for specific activities, as Health Canada anticipates that specialization may occur over time.

Under the new system, LPs can also apply for an import licence, and source their marihuana seeds or dry marihuana from foreign countries. However, currently Health Canada cannot issue import licences for marihuana because of Canada’s obligations under theWorld Trade Organization (WTO) Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. This issue is currently under discussion and might be solved as soon as this fall.

Since its introduction in 2001, use of medicinal marihuana has grown exponentially, from under 500 authorized persons to over 30,000 today. Eventually, Health Canada predicts that there might be as many as 600,000 individuals legally using marihuana for medical purposes in Canada. The new LP system is better suited to meet this demand.

With the new LP system, Health Canada intends to build a robust supply of medicinal marihuana, increase the choice of strains, and provide easier access to individuals that need it without undue administrative burden. Health Canada has also expressed a hope that the new industry might increase the level of research in the field and, provide data to add to the body of research resulting from Dutch and Israeli medical cannabis programs (see Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) and the Cannabinoids).