Medical Cannabis 101

ACMPR vs MMPR vs MMAR: Canadian Cannabis Regulation Simplified

By June 2, 2019 August 26th, 2020 No Comments

When Health Canada announced on August 24, 2016 that they were replacing the MMPR (Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations), with a new set of rules – the ACMPR, many patients were left asking: “How does this affect me?”

To simplify the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation, let’s break it down piece by piece.

What is the ACMPR?

The ACMPR is an acronym for Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation. The ACMPR is a result of the Allard v Canada case that ruled the former regulations, the MMPR infringed on Canadian patients’ rights to reasonable access to medical cannabis. Similar to the former MMPR, the ACMPR allows Canadian patients to register and obtain their medical cannabis from Health Canada approved Licensed Producers, but it also allows Canadians the option to grow a limited amount of cannabis for themselves, or designate someone to grow/ produce their medical cannabis for them.

Healthcare Practitioners still operate as gate-keepers under the ACMPR, as patients must obtain a prescription for medical cannabis in order to register with a Licensed Producer, or register with Health Canada for a personal production license.

When the ACMPR was put in place,  dispensaries, compassion clubs and retail storefronts for cannabis still remain illegal and the only legal option for patients to obtain dried cannabis, cannabis oil, and/or plants/seeds (“starting materials”) is through LPs.

What was the MMPR? 

Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) was a set of rules and regulations for growing, buying and selling medical cannabis in Canada. Under the MMPR, doctors were allowed to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients. Patients medicine was then purchased through a commercial grower (licensed producer or LP) that has been licensed by Health Canada. Patients did not have the option to grow their own cannabis under the MMPR, unlike the initial MMAR.

How was the MMPR different from the MMAR?

The main difference between the MMAR and the MMPR is that patients could no longer grow cannabis themselves or have it grown for them.

It has also been said that the switch was the result of pressure from Health Canada to improve access to medical marijuana and cut down on illegal home grow operations – which have been getting out of control over the years.

What does ACMPR stand for?

The ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation) replaced the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) in Canada in 2016. The key difference between both regulations was that the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) did not allow for home cultivation of plants by medical patients, they were forced to rely upon Health Canada and licensed practitioners for their needs.

With the introduction of ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation), the patients have reasonable access to medical marijuana. Patients can get access to medical marijuana by registering for the service.

Historically, Canada had legalized medical marijuana since 2001 however, the stricter rules surrounding accessibility made it unfeasible. Therefore, ACMPR came into the picture to offer respite for medical users. The regulations still control who gets access to medical marijuana, however, it allows the patients to grow marijuana and treat their illness at home without entirely relying on medical practitioners. 

Under Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation, the patient will still require a prescription to get access to medical marijuana through a Licensed Producer or register with Health Canada.

How does ACMPR work?

From a business side, the producer is responsible for taking necessary licenses from Health Canada to grow and produce medical marijuana. This gives them legal rights to distribute medical cannabis to medical clinics and authorized patients.

ACMPR explains how the producer can apply for a license to grow and sell dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, cannabis plants, seeds and oils legally in the country. However, the producers have to meet the quality and grade requirement, as one of the main responsibilities of ACMPR is to ensure quality products are released into the market and they are safe for medical consumption. The producers must adhere to strict regulations to maintain strain quality.

The patient, on the other hand, needs to obtain authorization from their doctor or medical practitioner. Only then can they qualify to use medical marijuana legally. The authorization by a medical professional defines the duration of the treatment and the strength of the dosage, which is then used for future prescriptions and refills.

This authorization is essential if the patient wishes to grow their medical marijuana.

What is an ACMPR license?

The ACMPR regulation allows for patients to apply for a personal production license given by Health Canada. Under this license, an individual can cultivate a limited quantity of cannabis at home to treat their medical needs.

It is also known as Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation Growing License. Health Canada is the governing body for these applications. The processing time for these licenses varies from 2 weeks to a couple of months. Currently, there are no direct licensing fees associated. As per regulations, Doctors cannot charge to obtain these licenses. However, if one has appointed a medical consultant to keep their files and the processes in order, these costs must be incurred by the individual and are not associated with Health Canada.

How many plants can I grow under ACMPR?

Under Cannabis Act (formerly ACMPR), an individual is allowed to grow 4 plants across provinces. For medical patients, there is no set limit, this does not mean the patient can grow unlimited weed.

The number of plants allowed to grow under ACMPR is dependent on the prescription and medical needs authorized by a licensed practitioner. The number of plants is directly proportionate to the strength of the dosage.

Click here to access the online calculator by Health Canada.

If you are wondering what’s the penalty for growing more than 4 plants in a residence, the outcome looks very stark. The worst possible action is being charged with a serious indictable offence wherein you could be imprisoned for 14 years. If lucky, you could get away with fines and tickets. Illicit cannabis will be confiscated by the authorities.

Can Health Canada reject your application for a growing license?

If the medical documentation was not provided by the right authority, Health Canada will not register you for the license. The registration of license is equivalent to approval. It is recommended to acquire the documentation and authorization from a medical doctor than a nurse practitioner to meet the guidelines.

Apollo Cannabis Clinic can help you find the right doctor to get the authorization to meet your medical needs.

Is ACMPR still valid after Cannabis Act was implemented?

The Cannabis Act has replaced ACMPR. Therefore, the rules and regulations of ACMPR remain the same as before. Technically, yes, the rules are still valid. The key difference between these programs is that the former lays down regulations for medical usage specifically.

For eg, under the Cannabis Act, a user is allowed 30 grams to use in public. Since the ACMPR laid down an exception to the limit for the medical patient, they can legally exceed this limit if they have prescribed authorization for the same under the Cannabis Act as well.

Since ACMPR was merged with the Cannabis Act 2018, there are separate regulations for recreational and medical use under one act. The burden of proof for medical cannabis lies with the patient or the user.

What is the difference between ACMPR and Cannabis Act?

The intent of use is the key difference between both regulations. Note, ACMPR is now replaced with the Cannabis Act. ACMPR was primarily intended for medical cannabis and the new act is directed towards both medical and recreation cannabis users.

Health Conditions that qualify for medical cannabis

Since medical cannabis is not like your regular painkiller, the patient needs to qualify to use the drug. The following are some of the ailments which are eligible for potential medical cannabis treatment.

  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Chronic Pain
  • Back and neck problems
  • Brain Injury
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Crohn’s Disease and Colitis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • PTSD
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sleep Disorders

This is not an exhaustive list.

How much quantity of medical cannabis prescription are you eligible for?

The maximum limit of medical-grade cannabis that you can order from a licensed producer is 150 grams per month.

If your consulting doctor is unwilling to prescribe medical cannabis, a referral to a specialized cannabis clinic is highly recommended. Apollo Cannabis Clinic can help you find the right treatment for your ailment with or without a referral. 

What kind of patients are the wrong candidates for medical cannabis treatments?

weed abuse are generally not the best candidates for this type of treatment. Doctors also refrain from treating patients with cardiovascular or respiratory disease to not risk aggravated reaction to the treatment.

Pregnant women and nursing mothers too are typically not prescribed with cannabis medication as it puts the child at risk.

How will the new amendments to the Cannabis Act scheduled for 17th October 2019 affect me?

The new regulations will come into force on October 17th, 2019. While there isn’t much material change from last year, there are some changes that affect how the final product is presented to consumers. Once the regulation is in motion, licensed holders have a 60-day window to notify Health Canada of new cannabis products like extracts, oils, topicals to be put on sale. Therefore, if everything goes as per schedule, cannabis products are set to hit the market on 16th December 2019. 

  • It will take 12 months for the new regulation to classify Cannabis Oil under extracts class. Till then it is illegal to buy Cannabis oil unless you have a medical prescription from a licensed practitioner.
  • Packaging and labelling are aimed to discourage youth from consuming cannabis with child-resistant packaging

The government will be proposing a cross-branding prohibition with alcohol and tobacco products. Health warning messages on packaging similar to tobacco products are in the works. The quantity of THC or CBD on the packaging will be standardized. 

There are also plans to ban cannabis edible products that are made to resemble candy or popular food products to discourage the young audience.

  • The THC content across product classes will be defined
  • Edible Cannabis will contain a maximum of 10 mg/package THC content
  • Cannabis Extract has a limit of the THC content of a maximum of 10 mg or 1000 mg per package.
  • 1000 mg per package is the limit set for Cannabis topicals
  • Restriction on Promotion

Any restriction on packaging and labelling will also be applied to the promotions. There are additional requirements that brands will have to meet. E.g., the size of logos, the type of text will have to meet the specifications.

  • The new regulation will create testing rules for all product classes

Once the transition period is complete, licensed producers will have to carry out extensive product testing either on the initial product or the final product. In the case of edible cannabis, testing the input or initial product is mandatory.

Once the final amendments to the Cannabis Act are in place, and the transition period is complete, the act’s impact on recreational and medical users and the licensed producers of Cannabis will be clearer.

How do I sign up/purchase medical marijuana under the ACMPR?

Patients suffering with eligible conditions (chronic pain, back pain, anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD etc.) can obtain a prescription for medical cannabis from their doctor. If the patient’s doctor is uncomfortable with medical cannabis or does not know how to prescribe cannabis, Apollo can help.

Apollo Cannabis Clinic

has physicians and psychiatrists available to consult and prescribe to patients Canada-wide, therefore we can assess your conditions, prescribe medical cannabis, and educate the patient all under one roof. We also have a new harm reduction program where our physicians can prescribe cannabis to patients who currently self-medicate with unregulated, illegal ‘street cannabis’ are eligible for a prescription under the basis of harm reduction. This is to ensure these patients have access to legal, regulated and tested medical cannabis under the ACMPR.

Moving forward, the big opportunity and focus will be on educating physicians about the truth surround medical cannabis, it’s scientific components, and the research that is currently underway. Since the power is now in the hands of your doctor, it’s important they have the correct information.

Photo Credit: Tim & Selena Middleton | cc

Dr. Singh

Dr. Singh

Dr. Mandeep Singh is a well established psychiatrist currently employed at Apollo Applied Research and holds the position of Director of wellness programs at Be Well Health Clinic in Toronto. His extensive and broad experience includes E.R/urgent care and outpatient psychiatric care at Trillium Health Partners as well as working with Veterans in Canada and the United States.

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