Canadian Patients Will Soon Be Allowed To Grow Their Own Cannabis
Green Rush Daily - By. Chuck Ludley - 08/15/2016
Long Story Short
Canadian medical cannabis patients will soon be able to grow their own plants at home. The change is part of some new laws that are set to go into effect on August 24.
Earlier this year, the medical cannabis community in Canada won a big victory. On February 24 Federal Judge Michael Phelan struck down a law that made it illegal for medical cannabis patients to grow their own weed.
He said the restriction violated patients’ rights by forcing them to buy their medicine from a commercial supplier. Phelan went on to say that medical cannabis patients in Canada should have the right to grow their own medicine. He gave the Canadian government six months to come up with new laws about home growing medical cannabis.
And now, those new laws are about to change the medical marijuana scene in Canada. Under the new rules, registered patients can grow “a limited amount of cannabis” for their own medical uses. They can also have someone else grow it for them. In this case, the grower needs to pass a background check first.
“If an individual wants to produce a limited amount of cannabis for his/her own medical purposes, he/she must submit an application to register with Health Canada,” the Canadian government said in a statement.
“An original medical document from the health-care practitioner must be provided and the application must include information such as the location of where cannabis will be produced and stored.”
And finally, they can continue buying medical cannabis from one of the 34 government approved growers and producers.
Canada Changing Cannabis Laws
The changes scheduled to take effect later this month are the latest in the ongoing evolution of Canada’s changing cannabis laws. Back when Judge Phelan made his decision, cannabis advocates called it “a complete victory.” And they’re hoping for even bigger victories in the near future.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has talked about legalizing cannabis ever since taking office. Last April, Health Minister Jane Philpott said that the government would take steps in that direction soon. She said that sometime by spring 2017 the federal government would put forth legislation that would start the legalization process.
A tip for American farmers: Grow hemp, make money
By Doug Fine latimes
june 25 2014
After a 77-year break, hemp plants are growing in American soil again. Right now, in fact. If you hear farmers from South Carolina to Hawaii shouting "God bless America," the reason isn't because Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper (he did). Nor is it because the canvas that put the "covered" in pioneer covered wagons was made of hemp, nor that the hemp webbing in his parachute saved George H.W. Bush's life in World War II.
Nope. It's because U.S. policy is finally acknowledging that hemp can help restore our agricultural economy, play a key role in dealing with climate change and, best of all, allow American family farmers to get in on a hemp market that, just north of us in Canada, is verging on $1 billion a year.
Hemp is a variety of cannabis — and thus a cousin of marijuana — that contains 0.3% or less of the psychoactive component THC. (Marijuana plants typically contain 5% to 20% THC.) You can't get high from hemp, but starting in 1937, U.S. drug laws made cultivating it off-limits.
Finally, the U.S. hemp industry is back. A provision in the 2014 farm bill signed by President Obama on Feb. 7 removed hemp grown for research purposes from the Controlled Substances Act, the main federal drug law.
Not a moment too soon. American farmers have been watching as Canadian farmers clear huge profits from hemp: $250 per acre in 2013. By comparison, South Dakota State University predicts that soy, a major crop, will net U.S. farmers $71 per acre in 2014.
Hemp takes half the water that wheat does, and provides four times the income. Hemp is going to revive farming families in the climate change era. — Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin
Canada's windfall has been largely due to the American demand for omega-balanced hempseed oil. But hemp is also a go-to material for dozens of applications all over the world. In a Dutch factory recently, I held the stronger-than-steel hemp fiber that's used in Mercedes door panels, and Britain's Marks and Spencer department store chain used hemp fiber insulation in a new flagship outlet. "Hempcrete" outperforms fiberglass insulation.
Farmers I've interviewed from Oregon to Ohio have gotten the memo. In a Kansas-abutting corner of eastern Colorado, in the town of Springfield, 41-year-old Ryan Loflin wants to save his family farm with hemp. "It takes half the water that wheat does," Loflin told me, scooping up a handful of drought-scarred soil so parched it evoked the Sahara, "and provides four times the income. Hemp is going to revive farming families in the climate-change era."
From an agronomic perspective, American farmers need to start by importing dozens of hemp varieties (known as cultivars) from seed stock worldwide. This is vital because our own hemp seed stock, once the envy of the world, was lost to prohibition. This requires diversity and quantity because North Dakota's soil and climate are different from Kentucky's, which are different from California's. Also, the broad variety of hemp applications requires distinct cultivars.
Legally, farmers and researchers doing pilot programs in the 15 states that have their own hemp legislation (including California) now have the right to import those seeds. The point of the research authorization in the farm bill is explicitly to rebuild our seed stock. Such research is how the modern Canadian hemp industry was kick-started in 1998.
But one final hurdle has been placed in front of American hemp entrepreneurs. In Kentucky, U.S. Customs officials, at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in May seized a 286-pound shipment of Italian hemp seed bound for the state's agriculture department. After a weeklong standoff, a federal agency had to be reminded by the federal courts that the law had changed and Kentucky's seed imports were legal.
The problem is as much an entrenched bureaucratic mind-set as the ink drying on the new federal hemp policy. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart told a law enforcement group last month that the hoisting of a hemp flag above the U.S. Capitol last July 4 was "the low point in my career."
It should have been a high point. Hemp's economic potential is too big to ignore. When he was China's president, Hu Jintao visited that nation's hemp fiber processors in 2009 to demand that farmers cultivate 2 million acres to replace pesticide-heavy cotton. Canada funded its cultivar research for farmers, with today's huge payoff.
Even Roger Ford, a politically conservative Kentucky utility owner, told me his Patriot BioEnergy's biofuels division would be planting hemp on coal- and tobacco-damaged soil the moment it was legal. Why? To use the fiber harvest for clean biomass energy. "We have a proud history of hemp in the South," Ford told me.
Congress knows the farm bill hemp provision is just a baby step. The real solution is the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which would allow nationwide commercial hemp cultivation. Colorado, already ahead of federal law on legalizing psychoactive cannabis, is also in front on hemp; it has a state law allowing commercial hemp cultivation. At least 1,600 acres were planted this season.
Wyden's bill should be fast-tracked. In the meantime, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) believes hemp is so important for the Bluegrass State that he's not waiting for another brouhaha over seed imports. He added an amendment to a bill that controls the DEA's budget to specifically protect imported hemp seeds from seizure. It passed in the House 246 to 162 on May 30.
It's a necessary move: Just last week at the Canadian border, the DEA seized another shipment of hemp seeds, this time bound for Colorado farmers. This counterproductive nonsense must stop.
American farmers and investors need our support to catch up with Canada's and the rest of the world's hemp head start. Now. As Loflin put it when I toured his family's 1,200-acre Colorado spread, "I'm planting hemp to show my neighbors that small farmers have a real option as businesspeople in the digital age."
We're down to 1% of Americans farming; it was 30% when our world-leading hemp industry was stymied in 1937. The crop is more valuable today than it was then. We should be waving flags and holding parades for the farmers ready to plant the crop that Thomas Jefferson called "vastly desirable." I know I'm ready. To cheer, and to plant.
it Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s secret stash.
A new report from CIBC World Markets says Canada’s federal and provincial governments could reap as much as $5 billion annually in tax revenues from the sale of legal marijuana.
CIBC economist Avery Shenfeld crunched the numbers using current estimates of Canadian recreational pot consumption, the revenue experience in U.S. states that have legalized, and other factors – such as prevailing “sin tax” rates on alcohol and tobacco.
The Liberal government has promised to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana and has made MP Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief, the lead on investigating a new regulatory model.
Trudeau maintains that legalized pot will not be a cash cow, and that all revenues will be used to address public health and addictions issues.
The bank report suggests there will be a sizeable bump in government revenues from the eventual legal sales, but says the cash will not enough be to make government deficits simply go up in smoke.
VIA Global News
The government says they will learn from U.S. states where the drug has been legalized
New Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration has reaffirmed that it will make moves to legalize marijuana now that parliament is resuming after the October election.
In a speech Friday laying out policy plans, Governor General David Johnston said the new Liberal government would make recreational use of the drug legal, but that it would also regulate and restrict access—though details about those restrictions were not forthcoming, The Guardian reports.
Johnston said eliminating the “criminal element” of marijuana use would help fix a broken system, adding that regulators would have much to learn from recent efforts in Colorado and Washington states.
Federal health minister says conversations with her own kids convinced her changes are required
By Susan Lunn, CBC News
The federal health minister says "the world is going to be looking to Canada to make sure we do the job well" when it comes to legalizing and regulating marijuana.
In an interview with CBC News, Jane Philpott said the government will look abroad for best practices, but said she doesn't see a perfect model anywhere.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on the legalization and regulation of marijuana for recreational use, and has mandated Philpott, along with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, to create a federal-provincial-territorial process to accomplish that.
Philpott said the government will create a task force to consult with legal authorities, public safety officials and Health Canada scientists, who already have a role in regulating products with health risks such as tobacco.
Scientists in her department have already started to brief her on the topic, she said.
Philpott, a family doctor, has four children, including one who is a teenager. She said she tries to have open conversations with all of them about a range of health issues, including marijuana.
Those conversations have convinced her the current system of prohibition and criminalization is not working.
"I think if any of your viewers, if they ask their teenage children, they can verify for them that [marijuana] is far too accessible. And obviously there's issues around safety and concentrations that are available in certain products are very dangerous," Philpott said.
"Often the products are not pure, and that's something that's a serious health concern for us."
Philpott said it is too early to speculate on what kind of restrictions will be placed around the sale of marijuana, such as an age limit — but she said her government is committed to keeping it away from teenagers.
"It's extremely important to me as a young parent and as a [health-care] provider to make sure we keep marijuana out of the hands of kids and young people, whose brains are developing. And at the moment, unfortunately, it's extremely accessible," she said.
Pot in corner stores?
The Opposition Conservatives did not respond to a request for comment Friday on what they want to see in the government's legislation.
But during the election campaign, the Conservatives were critical of the Liberal plan, telling voters it would lead to marijuana being sold in corner stores, where teenagers could get their hands on it easily.
— Chris Brown (@CBCChrisBrown) September 25, 2015
Trudeau said he didn't think corner stores would be the best place to sell marijuana, suggesting staff weren't always rigorous enough in checking ID.
(The industry association that represents convenience stores noted at the time it hasn't advocated for the right to sell marijuana, though it wasn't happy with Trudeau's characterization of its members' handling of age-restricted products.)
Philpott said most health-care providers are not opposed to the Liberal Party's plan on marijuana.
"I would say they are cautious about this, as I am. We need to be cautious about it," she said. "But I think most thoughtful Canadians recognize that the current system isn't working and they're looking to us to make sure we make a wise decision."
The Canadian Medical Association declined to comment, saying only "we acknowledge the complexity of the issue and the varying perspectives."
Canada’s “Princess of Pot” is glad that we [Canada] finally have a new prime minister. But long-time marijuana activist Jodie Emery knows that Justin Trudeau’s plan to legalize cannabis could go up in flames.
“Everybody’s in favour of legalizing it,” Emery tells 24 Hours. “Now, it’s about how. And when you talk about how, that’s very different.”
The new government would be wise to consult with the cannabis advocate and her husband, Marc.
The couple run the Cannabis Culture head shops, vapour lounges and an online magazine out of Vancouver. They’ve been able to put a stronger focus on the business in the last year – ever since Marc returned from prison in the U.S., where he served a five-year sentence for selling cannabis seeds.
But when Jodie was rejected by the federal Liberal party for trying to run as a candidate earlier this year, many wondered if Trudeau would forge ahead without the Emerys in his quest to legalize marijuana.
Q: What’s the best way to move forward with marijuana legalization in Canada?
Jodie Emery: Legalization can take many different forms, similar to how alcohol is legal but every city and province can deal with it as they see fit. So, with marijuana being legal, that basically means any sort of model is possible. It could be a very restrictive type of system, similar to Washington State perhaps, where they have a government-controlled system. They don’t allow people to grow their own, and there are different restrictions on driving. Whereas in Colorado, which is a far more successful version, they’ve allowed a real free market to exist, where people are allowed to open up their own retails stores. It’s not government-controlled. And people are also allowed to grow up to six plants of their own personal supply. For me as an activist, and for many people within the activism movement, the right to grow our own is very much a sticking point.
Q: Do you have any predictions about what Justin Trudeau’s government might do?
We know that the Liberals have been actively educating themselves on this file. But which form they’re going to go with, which model, I’m not sure. My one main concern is that they don’t want to be seen as the “pot party”, and so they might want to go with a more restrictive sort of legalization system – just to appease the people who are worried, and the cops and health professionals who are still on the fence. But if you really want to look at the science, and the polls of support amongst the people, clearly, full legalization is desired, and marijuana is far safer than alcohol and prescription pills and a lot of substances that are readily available.
Q: What would be your ideal situation, in terms of legalization?
I’m hoping for a truly free market, where you can grow your own, medically, from a licensed provider who has a sterile environment and medical-grade testing, or you could go to a commercial outlet that sells a whole lot of pot of commercial-grade, or you could go to something similar to a craft brewery or a boutique coffee shop, where it’s a limited selection of fine high-grade products. So ideally, I’d like a free market. But it’s possible, as with all government, that excessive regulation and taxation might be involved in whatever system they implement. So, my job is to try and work against that.
Q: What’s your husband Marc up to these days? Is he writing a book?
Not yet, but I keep bugging him to write a book! He’s just been so busy. He’s managing our store, so it’s an interesting time for us. Now that he’s home (from prison), we’re running our stores, head shops, vapour lounges and online media. We’re just trying to remain cutting-edge.
Q: Have you heard the news that Toronto City Council has outlawed hookah lounges?
Yeah, I saw Toronto voted to ban them, which is terrible. Vancouver did the same thing. And it’s really unfair… I think it’s wrong for governments to stop businesses from operating when everyone involved in those businesses are doing so with consent. And what bothers me about the hookah lounges is it’s not really even smoke in most cases; it’s not nicotine or tobacco. It’s just herbal shisha being vaporized, really.
Q: Once marijuana becomes legal, do you think you’ll get the chance to hang out with Justin Trudeau and roll up a joint?
I sure hope so! I would love to toke with Trudeau. (laughs)
VIA 24 Hours Toronto
by MIKE HAGER
Canadian doctors should use medical marijuana instead of frequently abused opioids to treat patients with neuropathic pain and a host of other conditions cannabis has been proven to combat, Vancouver-based HIV/AIDS researchers argue in a newly published editorial.
Thomas Kerr, Julio Montaner and Stephanie Lake of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS argue the Canadian Medical Association is holding pot to a higher standard than other pain-relieving pharmaceutical drugs and is ignoring high-quality, peer-reviewed studies on the use of cannabis. Their editorial is in the latest edition of the Journal of the Canadian Public Health Association.
Dr. Kerr, co-director of the centre’s Urban Health Research Initiative, said five recent randomized control trials and two systemic reviews have found marijuana helps relieve neuropathic pain. Yet many doctors are still loathe to prescribe a drug that has not been approved by Health Canada.
“The evidence supporting the therapeutic use of cannabis is actually much stronger than the use of other drugs that are used to treat the same conditions and it also seems, in many cases, that cannabis has a more favourable side-effect profile,” Dr. Kerr said.
He said opioids, such as oxycodone, hydromorphone and morphine, are increasingly being prescribed and have contributed to nearly half of all overdose deaths in the country. Canadians are the second-largest per capita consumer of opioids in the world.
“Opioids are killing people right now,” said Dr. Kerr, whose previous research helped prove the efficacy of Vancouver’s controversial supervised-injection site, known as Insite. “There is no association with cannabis and mortality, and yet North America is in the midst of, really, what is a public-health emergency associated to opioid overdose deaths.”
If doctors prescribed more marijuana to those with chronic pain, they may cut down on these deaths, said Dr. Kerr, citing research in the United States that showed such fatal overdoses dropped by 25 per cent in states that enacted medical pot laws.
He said medical pot has also been proven to relieve spasticity and “wasting” associated with HIV/AIDS, as well as nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
In a Supreme Court ruling this summer that enshrined a patient’s right to buy edible forms of the medicine from federally licensed growers, judges also accepted that cannabis has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. Stressing the danger it poses to young people and public health in general, the Conservatives have repeatedly gone to court to restrict patients’ use and production of the drug.
Medical marijuana is legal in Canada, but the federal Conservative government repeatedly says it is not an approved drug and it does not condone its use. The government notes the courts have required it to allow patients to access medical marijuana, which is now grown and distributed by a network of large-scale commercial producers.
While doctors can prescribe pot, most say they simply aren’t confident enough in their knowledge of the drug to safely recommend it to patients.
Charles Webb, head of the association representing B.C.’s doctors, agreed that medical marijuana may well help with those conditions described by Dr. Kerr, but he said many physicians will remain reticent to prescribe it until Health Canada comes out with guidelines on dosage, concentration and best practices for administering the drug.
Dr. Webb said he doesn’t believe cannabis is stigmatized by his profession. He notes his colleagues have no problem prescribing a synthetic marijuana drug named Nabilone, which is used to treat nausea for chemotherapy patients, because it has gone through all the regulatory hurdles.
“Let’s study, trial and come up with some answers in terms of how to work through this [cannabis] situation with [administering] inhaled, versus vaporized, versus oils, versus baked products,” said Dr. Webb.
Cindy Forbes, president of the Canadian Medical Association, declined an interview request, but issued a statement expressing doctors’ concerns that Health Canada has exempted the drug from the regulatory requirements that pharmaceuticals must face.
“The limited clinical evidence combined with very limited guidance for the therapeutic use of marijuana pose a challenge for physicians in providing the best care to patients,” Dr. Forbes wrote.
TORONTO -- As medical marijuana gains traction as a treatment option for a host of conditions including chronic pain and other conditions, Canadian employers could find themselves grappling with a sticky issue.
"Individuals have the right to equal treatment ... without discrimination on the grounds of disability," says Jan Robinson, managing principal at human resources firm Morneau Shepell.
"Medical cannabis now needs to be viewed like every other doctor-prescribed drug."
But although employers have a duty to accommodate workers' medical conditions, experts say that duty must be balanced with the need to keep the workplace safe. That can be challenging, especially if employees perform duties such as operating machinery.
"There's no hard or fast rule to this," says Natalie MacDonald, an employment lawyer and the co-founder of Rudner MacDonald LLP. "It's got to be determined on a case-by-case basis -- as most things in employment law do."
Experts says the duty to accommodate comes with an important caveat -- it must not result in undue hardship for the employer.
While there is no strict definition of what constitutes undue hardship, MacDonald says the courts will consider a number of factors including how much financial difficulty the company would endure and whether accommodating the employee would compromise workplace safety.
"A small organization that has to incur serious financial hardship as a result of trying to accommodate an employee may cross the test of undue hardship," MacDonald said.
A recent decision issued by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal illustrates some of the limits that apply to the employer's responsibility to accommodate workers' needs.
The Tribunal ruled in July that B.C.-based Selkin Logging did not violate John French's human rights by refusing to allow the logging contractor to use marijuana while on the job.
The company, which has a "zero tolerance" policy on marijuana use, had argued that it did not discriminate against French based on his use of cannabis to handle the symptoms of cancer, but rather was concerned about safety.
In addition, French was not authorized by Health Canada to possess medical marijuana, although he claimed he was using the drug to ease cancer-related pain as per his doctors' recommendations, according to court documents.
MacDonald says that if French had proper medical documentation, the outcome of the case may have been different. However, safety concerns still need to be taken into account, she adds.
One alternative way to accommodate a worker's needs would be to provide the worker with a leave of absence until the medical issue is resolved, MacDonald said.
"In some cases, it may be that the employee needs to be provided with alternative forms of work that don't attract any particular safety concerns," MacDonald said.
As cannabis becomes a more popular treatment choice -- Health Canada has estimated there could be nearly half a million users by 2024 -- the issue is likely to start cropping up at workplaces across the country.
"We are starting to recognize that this trend will commence very shortly across Canada," said Robinson, noting that Morneau Shepell has been advising its clients to review their existing drug and alcohol policies to ensure they are adequate.
"If they don't look at their drug policies now, they may have issues in the future," she said.
Health minister 'outraged' by ruling, vows to combat 'normalization' of pot.
Medical marijuana patients will now be able to consume marijuana — and not just smoke it — as well as use other extracts and derivatives, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled today.
The unanimous ruling against the federal government expands the definition of medical marijuana beyond the "dried" form.
The country's highest court found the current restriction to dried marijuana violates the right to liberty and security "in a manner that is arbitrary and hence is not in accord with the principles of fundamental justice."
Restricting medical access to marijuana to a dried form has now been declared "null and void" — Sections 4 and 5 of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, which prohibits possession and trafficking of non-dried forms of cannabis, will no longer be in effect.
The respondent in this case, Owen Smith, called it "a very emotional day."
"I'm proud and really happy today for all those people who are going to benefit from this ruling," he said at a press conference in Victoria, B.C.
The decision upholds earlier rulings by lower courts in British Columbia that said they went against a person's right to consume medical marijuana in the form they choose.
Many users felt smoking it was even potentially harmful. However, methods such as brewing marijuana leaves in tea or baking cannabis into brownies left patients vulnerable to being charged with possession and trafficking under the law.
According to evidence submitted to the trial judge, it came down to forcing a person to choose between a legal but inadequate treatment, and an illegal but more effective choice.
Federal health minister 'outraged'
"It's a positive — it's a great thing for patients ... and people who need extracts who can't smoke their cannabis or don't even want to in the first place," said David-George Oldham, founder of The ARC, a consortium of cannabis patients, doctors, activists and chemists.
SCOC Medical Marijuana 20150611
David-George Oldham smokes marijuana outside the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Thursday. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)
"Imagine smoking seven grams of cannabis when you're having a migraine so bad that just moving your fingers is excruciating pain," he said during a scrum outside the Supreme Court.
"Taking a [cannabis] pill is a lot more sensible and having pills stocked in my cupboard makes a lot more sense than having just raw cannabis out and about in my house."
The federal government, however, isn't pleased.
"Frankly, I'm outraged by the Supreme Court," said Health Minister Rona Ambrose.
"Let's remember, there's only one authority in Canada that has the authority and the expertise to make a drug into a medicine and that's Health Canada," she said during a press conference.
"Marijuana has never gone through the regulatory approval process at Health Canada, which of course, requires a rigorous safety review and clinical trials with scientific evidence."
Arrest of pot baker sparked court challenge
The case stems from Smith's 2009 arrest in Victoria.
Smith, a baker for the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, was found with more than 200 cookies and 26 jars of liquids, including cannabis-infused massage oils and lip balms. The baker was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and unlawful possession of marijuana.
Marijuana ruling - Owen Smith pot cookie baker
Owen Smith was caught baking more than 200 pot cookies for the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club in 2009. (CHEK)
The club delivers medical marijuana products to its members, but doesn't have a licence to produce it.
At his trial, Smith argued that the law under which he was charged was unconstitutional and violated Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person.
The British Columbia trial judge agreed and acquitted him. A B.C. Appeal Court also ruled in Smith's favour, under the principle that no one can be convicted of an offence under an unconstitutional law.
The federal government then appealed that decision to take his case to Canada's top court. Thursday's decision affirms Smith's acquittal.
The Appeal Court had also suspended its declaration for a year to give Parliament time to rewrite the law. The Supreme Court has now deleted that suspension, saying otherwise it would "leave patients without lawful medical treatment and the law and law enforcement in limbo."
Ambrose said the federal government will fight against the court's "normalization" of marijuana.
"We will continue to combat it. We will continue our anti-drug strategy, we will target youth with the message that marijuana pot is bad for them," the minister said. "We'll continue to work with medical authorities across the country to make sure they're involved in the message."
TORONTO -- Canadians who have been prescribed medical marijuana could one day see their insurance company footing the bill, experts predict, following the introduction of new Health Canada rules that allow for the sale of cannabis oils.
Health Canada announced revamped medical marijuana regulations earlier this month after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that users of the drug should be permitted to consume it in other forms, such as oils and edibles, rather than having to smoke dried buds.
"You're going to see insurance companies slowly start to creep into the sector," says Khurram Malik, an analyst at Jacob Securities Inc., noting that the new regulations will allow medical marijuana producers to sell gel caps similar to those made from cod liver oil.
That will allow for more precise dosing, Malik says.
"When you're trying to smoke a plant you have no idea how much you're consuming, so that makes doctors a little nervous," he said.
Experts say the changes are a major step towards legitimizing the drug in the eyes of doctors and insurers.
"When something doesn't look different than other medicines, it becomes much easier for people to get comfortable with the idea that this is, in fact, a possible treatment option for patients," says Bruce Linton, the chief executive of Smiths Falls, Ont.-based Tweed Marijuana Inc. (CVE:TWD).
However, medical marijuana producers still have one major hurdle to overcome before insurers begin routinely funding the drug -- cannabis currently doesn't have a drug identification number, known as a DIN.
"If it was issued a DIN by Health Canada, it's quite likely that the insurance companies would cover it," says Wendy Hope, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc.
"To obtain a DIN, the new form of medical marijuana would need to go through the full Health Canada approval process like any new drug."
As it stands, most insurance companies don't routinely cover medical marijuana. But some insurers, including Manulife, say they will consider making an exception if the employer has specifically requested it for one of its employees.
"It's up to the employer to ask if they want to have it covered," says Hope.
Earlier this year, Sun Life agreed to pay for a University of Waterloo's medical marijuana prescription through his student health plan after the student union went to bat for him. Jonathan Zaid, 22, uses the drug to combat a syndrome called new daily persistent headache.
Some health insurance companies may pay for medical marijuana through a health spending account, says Hope. But, she adds, "my understanding is it doesn't happen often."
Malik says the primary reason why medical marijuana doesn't have a DIN is a lack of rigorous, clinical research on its efficacy.
"The evidence is very circumstantial -- not your typical 10-year, double-blind study that doctors and big pharmaceutical companies like to see," Malik said.
He suspects that's about to change.
"You're going to see a lot of Canadian companies partnering up with universities overseas that are a little more progressive than the ones we have here, at least in this space, to drive this research forward and legitimize it in the eyes of doctors and get DIN numbers on these things," Malik said.
Malik says there is a financial incentive for insurers to pay for medical marijuana, rather than shelling out for pricier chronic pain drugs such as opiates.
"From a dollars and cents standpoint, if marijuana is the same thing as a narcotic opiate, they would much rather cover marijuana because they're in the business to make money," Malik said.