Canada is currently preparing to legalize marijuana nationwide. It is a major moment in cannabis legalization, as the United States still finds itself in persistently dogged battles over marijuana. Some may ask how our neighbors to the north differ in its cannabis programs to those that exist in the United States. Here are three key medical marijuana differences between the two countries.
Federal Vs. State Regulation
In the United States, the government has made cannabis a states’ issue. Each state must legalize on its own before preceding to establish cannabis programs. Some have reasoned this creates testing grounds across the country, getting all the kinks worked out, before reaching the federal level.
However, this has never been the case in Canada. While the country is made up of various provinces and territories, Canada has always treated marijuana as a federal issue. The Canadian Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) in 2001 granted legal access of marijuana to patients with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. Patients could grow their own plants or obtain it from authorized distributors. In 2013, the country passed the Medical Marijuana Purposes Regulation (MMPR), which established a more regulated system of cannabis distributors. The final medical marijuana program was passed in 2016, the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
Unfortunately, both countries have scientists frustrated at the lack of scientific research available on the effect of the drug. That’s because there are major hurdles in each case for the countries’ scientists to have access to research.
Thanks to its Schedule I classification, those in the United States must receive approval from three different governing agencies to access medical marijuana for research. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to obtain marijuana to research, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to submit an investigational new drug application, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to receive an investigator registration and proper licenses. This process can be cumbersome and lead to numerous dead ends for researchers.
Meanwhile Canadian researchers must apply for specific exemptions from Health Canada for each compound of the cannabis plant they want to study. As there are hundreds of compounds, this system can be extremely limiting to the scientific community. That’s not to mention the unwieldy methods required to obtain the medical marijuana and the lack of money available to fund any research.
Methods Of Acquisition
It is illegal to otherwise ship or move any federally restricted substance like cannabis across state lines or through the US postal system. If you do, you’re liable to receive felony charges. Therefore, medical cannabis patients must visit state-authorized dispensaries to acquire their product. Ordering anything online is strictly prohibited.
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The opposite is true in Canada. Medical cannabis patients must have their product shipped directly to them. As the government website states, “Neither the ACMPR nor any other Health Canada regulations authorize licensed producers to provide cannabis for medical purposes through a storefront.” However it is illegal for patients to ship medical cannabis to each other. Only authorized distributors may transport or ship medical marijuana. While there are cannabis dispensaries currently in Canada, they operate under legal gray areas, and may be subject to law enforcement actions.