Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)

Pharmacists given a reprieve as medical marijuana rules finalized

OTTAWA – After two years of back and forth, the federal government has finalized its new rules for medical marijuana and has granted a last-minute reprieve to pharmacists who opposed the rules in their draft form.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq rolls out the regulations this morning for final publication in the Canada Gazette on Wednesday.

Under the new regime, the government will no longer produce or distribute medical pot and medical marijuana users will no longer be allowed to grow the product at home.

Instead, the government will allow patients to buy prescribed amounts only from licensed growers under strict conditions.

In previous versions of the regulations, pharmacies were to distribute the product just like other medications, provoking the anger of pharmacists who feared being robbed.

But the final version removes the pharmacists from the loop, forcing patients to rely on mail order for their medical marijuana.

“While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety,” Aglukkaq said in a news release.

“These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses.”

She used similar reasoning last week when she introduced new hurdles for the creation of supervised drug-injection sites in response to a court ruling.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger says Ottawa’s move to table the regulations is “not good,” noting he fully supports the new regime.

“The system which is in place now is not workable for the long term,” he says.

“Medical marijuana should not have been treated any differently than any other pain medication, and those get distributed through pharmacists and are under strict control. This is a drug that can provide a number of benefits to sick individuals.”

Neuberger says the new guidelines should be implemented as soon as possible.

“The new regime will be very helpful,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “I think having licenced regional growers who really know what they’re doing and can do it efficiently and safely will allow for incredible amounts of data so we can track the strains that help people the most. This is a great step forward.”

Neuberger says the new system is poised to “raise the sophistication of the science” of growing medical marijuana, which will “provide a better, more effective product for sick Canadians.”

While the pharmacists were placated in the final version of the marijuana regulations, doctors were not. They have objected to being told to prescribe a product that has not been rigorously tested.

-With files from AdvocateDaily

© 2013 The Canadian Press

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