News » Canadian Government To Tighten MMJ Rules
December 21, 2011 by Aaron Turpen
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says that Canada’s medical marijuana licensing system is vulnerable to abuse and needs to be tightened. This comes after news this week about data that may indicate a surge in possibly fraudulent applications.
“We’re aware that there are opportunities and risks of the system being abused, which is why we are working to tighten up the system,” said Steve Outhouse, a spokesman for the Health Minister at a press conference on Friday.
The appropriately named Outhouse cited data published in the Ottawa Citizen regarding changes in application numbers from 2008 to 2010. The number of patients requesting MMJ access based on severe arthritis claims jumped 2,400 percent in those three years. The “2,400%” number is a bit of a misnomer since there were zero claims for anything in January of 2008 when the graph begins. Looking at the data as a whole, arthritis accounts for 40% of the total applications, which doesn’t seem nearly as sensational.
In fact, most of the chronic diseases for which MMJ can be prescribed in Canada require years of approval process. Simpler ailments like arthritis, however, require only a doctor’s approval, so it’s speculated that many patients (and doctors) may be using any symptom of arthritis as a reason to apply for a faster permit to save time and money.
In fact, when the numbers released, Health Canada said that the numbers were very likely due to increased awareness about the program:
“Increasing awareness of the program among patient groups and treating physicians is likely a key contributing factor,” said Health Canada spokesman Gary Holub.
The two main changes being proposed by Health Canada for Marihuana Medical Access Regulation are to better educate doctors on the issue and to eliminate the license often given to patients to allow them to grown in their own homes.
The idea is to create a sort of pharmaceutical system for marijuana that is more centralized. The risk, cited by HC, of course, is that “people might grow more than they’re allowed.”
The good news in all of this? Health Canada is working towards a laudible goal: removing itself from the regulatory process and putting it entirely in the hands of doctors to allow marijuana to be prescribed just like any other pharmaceutical or remedy.
Of course, Canada’s main doctor’s group, The Canadian Medical Association, has its head in a place similar to the it’s counterpart in America: they don’t want anything to do with cannabis. Their licensing bodies tell doctors that they are under no obligation to complete MMJ forms and that if they choose to do so, they “do so at their own risk.”
Outhouse says that the proposed HC changes will be finalized in 2012 and should make it less complicated for seriously ill Canadians to gain approval. What he leaves out is that this approval would come with an inability to get cannabis from anywhere but their authorized, likely monopolized sources.
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