Between Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to make recreational marijuana legal across Canada and a recent court decision that reinstated the right for medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis, it may seem like the tide is finally turning in favor of legalization. But, many medical marijuana patients remain skeptical and worried about their ability to access reasonably priced cannabis after legalization.
Cost and Access
The reason many medical marijuana patients took Health Canada to court over its regulations forbidding patients from growing their own cannabis was cost. Cannabis provided through the licensed producers is expensive. One enterprising Ottawa woman found she could grow a year’s supply of cannabis herself for about $300. It would cost her more than $11,000 to buy the same amount from a federally licensed producer.
Most insurance companies do not cover the cost of medical marijuana, although that is beginning to change as insurance companies come to realize that even cannabis procured from licensed producers is cheaper than the pharmaceuticals it usually replaces.
When the court restored patient’s rights to grow their own cannabis, many rejoiced. But, their happiness was quickly tempered by Health Canada.
Health Canada Regulations
Health Canada has made it clear that it will comply with the judge’s ruling, but that its recently released regulations are only a stopgap. Statements from Health Canada make it clear that it is still committed to keeping control of people’s access to cannabis. Its statements include plans to bring medical marijuana under the same set of regulations that will govern legalized recreational marijuana.
This has many patients worried that the recent court victory to grow their own cannabis will be short lived. They worry that they will be forgotten in the tangle of new regulations when Trudeau’s government legalizes marijuana across the country.
What Will Legalization Mean?
The testimony of Health Canada’s experts during the recent medical marijuana trial and its actions since the legalization of medical marijuana have shown a strong bias for forcing people to access marijuana from private companies licensed by government. The issue with the licensing is that it inflates the cost of marijuana. Obtaining a license is expensive and Health Canada wants to keep the number of licenses limited. If recreational marijuana becomes the major focus of cannabis regulations, patients worry that they hard fought rights will be lost once again.
If they are not allowed to grow their own cannabis, legal medical marijuana is useless to them because of the high cost. Medical marijuana advocates are pushing patients, doctors, and the government to remember that medical marijuana is different from recreational marijuana. They want medical marijuana to continue to be regulated separately from recreational cannabis.
If advocates are not vigilant it is possible that medical marijuana may become even more difficult to access after recreational cannabis legalization than it was before. Lack of access to medical marijuana will be more than an inconvenience to some patients. It will be a death sentence.