Health Canada is rolling out new regulations that would require medical marijuana companies to provide information about their patients and the doctors who prescribe the drug to medical colleges.
The proposed amendments to the newly enacted “Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations” would allow provincial regulators, most of whom have been vocal in their opposition to members prescribing marijuana, “to more effectively monitor the practices of their members.”
Health Canada estimates the changes will come at a cost to the industry of nearly $3 million over the next decade.
The new rules would require licensed producers to provide information about doctors who authorize the use of medical marijuana including their names, addresses and licence numbers when requested by a provincial medical licensing body.
Companies would be compelled to provide patient information such as the quantity of dried marijuana prescribed, the period of use and basic patient information.
Unlike the physician information, the patient information would be provided to medical colleges on a regular basis: semi-annually.
Health Canada officials had previously been responsible for deciding who had legal access to medical marijuana. But the federal agency changed the system on April 1, and now a medical document (doctors shy from the word “prescription”) from a doctor is needed to get medical pot.
The new program is under intense scrutiny from regulatory colleges across the country, and physicians who authorize the use of marijuana are going to be screened far more closely than they have been. Medical colleges have the ability to revoke doctors’ licences.
The new rules would also allow for a transition period for colleges to retroactively request the information back to when the companies were registered and before the regulations were updated.
Another amendment would require licensed producers to keep records of the information provided to the licensing bodies.
Health Canada estimates the new rules will cost the fledgling industry some $423,461 per year due to additional paperwork, with costs decreasing over time. The agency calculated the data based on the assumption that 50 licenced producers will operate in the market, even though it has received more than 600 applications.
The agency has never said whether there will be be a cap on the number of entrants allowed into the market, nor why it chose the number 50 for its analysis. It has approved licences for some 20 companies already.
Until now, licensed producers were required to make the patient and doctor information available to Health Canada but not the colleges that oversee and investigate physicians’ conduct.
There will be a consultation period for the proposed amendments before they become law. Health Canada said it has had initial consultations with a select group of licensed producers who have indicated “they would regard this as a positive opportunity.”
The agency said existing provincial monitoring systems do not provide oversight for doctors and nurses who authorize medical marijuana.
“Despite the efforts that have been made, there is less information and fewer other resources about marihuana for medical purposes available to healthcare professionals than would typically be available for an approved prescription narcotic,” it said.
Health Canada has since doled out a handful of production licences and has received hundreds more applications from entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the industry, which the government believes could be worth $1.3 billion and grow from 40,000 to 400,000 users in the next decade.
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