Many of these patients favour cannabis oil, over smokable flower, as a more convenient consumption method. To create a single gram of high-quality oil typically requires at least seven grams of flower, depending on the calibre of the starting material. It then requires significant expertise to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes properly, often with the use of volatile chemicals.

In light of these challenges, many patients rely on the proficiency of designated legal growers to produce cannabis oil for them. This is especially true of those who require large amounts daily, which is rarely financially viable to repeatedly purchase from external sources. Growers that create the best medicine attract increased demand and scale production accordingly, to satisfy the needs of their dependents. This often results in large, yet compliant and vital, medical cannabis operations.

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When cultivating cannabis for medicine, many would much sooner experience surplus than a shortage. To protect against losses as a sound agricultural practice, growers often produce more cannabis than they hope to need. This is particularly beneficial when growing outside in Canada, with crops vulnerable to environmental fluctuations. By penalizing those that slightly exceed crop limits to provide a safety buffer, it forces patients to risk shortfalls in medication with potentially dangerous results.

Grounds for license refusals

The final motivation provided for tightening medical cultivation is perhaps the most worrying, as a recent trend as well as its inclusion in the public guidance document. Health Canada referenced ‘drug and weapon charges’ at production sites, alluding to the activity of organized crime. However, it failed to detail the extent of the problem, or the number of arrests made.

A minority of medical growers are exploiting the system and those individuals require investigation, rather than widespread industry reforms. Drawing attention to isolated incidents and reporting weapon offences could result in the public accepting the proposals without accurately looking at the whole picture.

For the first time the regulator detailed grounds for license refusals or revocations, such as unlicensed crop sizes and suspicion of cannabis being diverted to an illicit market. Licences can also be taken away for not properly securing premises, administration errors and sharing medical cannabis with others.

There is a fear these measures could be used extensively to substantially cut the amount of medical cannabis available and its accessibility. With the health of hundreds of thousands at stake, the ability to source medical cannabis from a variety of sources conveniently is essential to strengthen the supply chain and mitigate shortfalls. This includes the provision of high-quality starting materials, such as seeds and cuttings, which inspire patients to grow at home and reduce their reliance on external suppliers.

This is not the first time Health Canada has singled out the medical industry, with previous proposals to tighten the framework defeated in the Supreme Court as recently as 2016. The new measures would constitute further discrimination against cannabis patients, perpetuating the stigma that surrounds the industry and the misconception that cannabis is inherently dangerous.

Health Canada has invited industry and community stakeholders to share feedback on its intentions by May 7, 2021, at which point it will analyze the assessment of the scheme and publicize its planned amendments.

Patient Choice is currently gathering responses to the proposals from its robust medical cannabis ecosystem, which consists of an ever-growing number of licensed growers and registered patients, and will provide its recommendation based on their evaluation. Submissions to Health Canada on its proposed updates can be made here.

This content was originally published here.