This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada, which closed in 2021.
The Blog

Top 6 Ways Health Canada Is Screwing Up Medical Marijuana

If Health Canada spent as much time and money on researching medical marijuana and creating a properly run system as they have on court battles against patients, then we'd all be a lot better off. But unless you've just taken a big bong-hit, I wouldn't hold your breath.

Health Canada has been running Canada's medical marijuana program from the beginning, and they're really bad at it!

Here's the top six ways they've been screwing up.

6) They can't decide how to spell marijuana.

Cannabis is a plant with many names, but most people call it marijuana and they spell it with a J. They use this word because back in the '20s, when white supremacists where writing Canada's first anti-cannabis laws, they gave it a funny, foreign-sounding new name, so that people wouldn't know what plant they were really talking about.

It worked great! Even the government people didn't know what they were doing. The same year Parliament banned "marihuana," they also passed The Hemp Bounty Act to encourage more cannabis cultivation in the Prairies!

But now Health Canada seems confused by their own linguistic invention. They can't decide to stick to their own tradition of spelling it with an H, or go with the newfangled spelling and use a J.

This dilemma has proved too much for Health Canada, who seem to have given up and just use both, apparently at random.

On Health Canada's own main medical cannabis website, it's almost evenly balanced, with nine marijuanas and 10 marihuanas on the same page.

If Health Canada can't even figure out how to spell the word marijuana, how the heck can they be trusted to run the program?

5) Their information is dangerously unclear and out of date.

So maybe I'm just being petty about the spelling thing. Who cares how they spell marijuana, as long as their information is all up to date, right?

And as the government agency in charge of the medical marijuana program, Health Canada must be the go-to source for accurate info, right?

Sadly, this is not the case. Health Canada is one of the worst sources for information about their own program, especially for changes that they don't like.

Go check out their medical marijuana webpage. Or better yet, don't bother, it's a confusing inaccurate mess.

Imagine you're a police officer, looking to find out more about who you're supposed to be busting in regards to medical marijuana. You'd heard something about a court decision and weren't sure whether you should be going after home medical gardeners after April 1.

So you go to the Health Canada site and click on "Information for Law Enforcement." There you find out that patients are "required to destroy all plants and dried marihuana by April 1, 2014."

Seems clear enough. No mention of any injunctions, or court cases at all. Just a big green light for a medical grower round up. Go get 'em boys!

The only mention of the injunction, which basically changes everything and is the one thing people will be wanting to know about, is a single text link from the main page, with the innocuous words "Marihuana Medical Access Regulations update."

Click on that and you get taken to a vaguely worded page that sort of explains the injunction, but not really and not very clearly.

The next "latest update" on their page is one telling patients they must destroy their marijuana on April 1. That doesn't apply anymore, but hey, why bother deleting or changing it? It's not like they're toying with people's lives or anything.

So basically, the most important change that people will be wanting to know about is almost completely ignored on Health Canada's website. Great job team!

4) They won't call it a prescription.

Even though it's a medicine and your doctor needs to fill out a form before you can buy it, Health Canada insists that you're not actually getting a "prescription" for marijuana.

Why won't they call it a prescription? The only reason seems purely vindictive, because making marijuana into a special category of "needing a doctor's permission but it's not a prescription" just costs patients a lot more money.

Doctors aren't allowed to charge extra to write a prescription, but they can legally demand an arbitrary fee to fill out paperwork like a medical marijuana access form. Since they aren't "prescribing" it, doctors can and do charge a few hundred bucks for patients who need access to cannabis medicine.

Marijuana's non-prescription status also allows for another kind of money grab. Prescription drugs are exempt from GST, but Health Canada made sure to charge tax on every shipment of their crappy government weed, and they've spent a lot of money in court fighting to ensure that medical marijuana users must pay GST as well.

Why does Health Canada want to ensure that patients pay five per cent more for their marijuana when it clearly fits into the prescription category? My extensive research points to one conclusion: they're jerks.

3) They're ridiculously slow with paperwork.

Health Canada is notorious for taking a very long time to process any marijuana-related documents. Under the original program, patients often spent months in legal limbo, waiting for Health Canada to approve their doctor's paperwork. Sometimes patients would wait for weeks, only to find that a nameless bureaucrat had lost their form, or that they needed to make a minor change and then resubmit.

On top of all that, Health Canada also forced patients to renew their documentation every year, creating an endless cycle of paperwork, just in case their AIDS or epilepsy got better and they no longer needed to use cannabis.

Now Health Canada has gotten itself out of that mess, and patients with a doctor's note will be able to connect directly to the licensed producers. Great! And how many of the 400 licensed producer applications have been approved so far? Oh, uh... a dozen?

Health Canada signed off on the first one at the end of October, and now's there's 12 approved producers. So at that rate Health Canada will have gone through their backlog of 400 applications in about 15 years!

Want to get a license to grow medical marijuana in Canada? Put in your application now, maybe it'll be ready for your toddler to use by the time they've grown up.

2) They wanted patients to destroy their medicine.

Health Canada knew there was no way that the dozen newly-licensed producers could possibly have enough cannabis ready to supply the 40,000 registered patients, so they graciously granted growers a six-month extension to help ease the transition.

Hahaha no, of course they didn't do that! In fact, Health Canada doubled down, demanding that patients not only had to dismantle their home gardens by April 1, but they also had to destroy all their remaining homegrown medicine as well.

If the injunction hadn't succeeded, then patients would have been forced to mix their bud with kitty litter and put it on the curb! Shutting down the home cannabis gardens is bad enough, but what possible reason is there to make patients throw away their supply of dried bud?

Since patients are growing enough to last them until their next harvest, for most of them this would have meant throwing away three to four months of perfectly good medicine. What a waste of time and money!

But never fear, because if you were really desperate to use the cannabis you grew for yourself, Health Canada did offer one legal solution. Just sell your freshly harvested buds to a licensed producer, let them dry and trim it, and then buy them all back again!

Believe it or not, that's totally legal, and licensed producers have indeed been buying up fresh buds from patients and their designated growers for resale. They only had until April 1 to complete their purchases, so the 400 potential licensees waiting to have their applications approved couldn't get in on this unique opportunity.

Of course, as a patient trying to buy your medicine back you'd need to pay extra to cover the price mark-up, and also pay for the shipping, and of course you could only order back 150 grams at a time. But aside from that, it's easy-peasy! And perfectly logical, at least according to Health Canada.

Wait a minute, wasn't the whole reason Health Canada wanted to stop home cultivation because they thought some patients and growers might be selling their bud at a profit? So the solution was to encourage them to sell it all for a profit? I'm getting dizzy, and it's not because of the joint I just smoked.

Blog continues after slideshow:

Medical Marijuana In Canada: Commercial Producer MediJean

1) They fight everything in court

The only reason we have a medical marijuana program in Canada is because patients went to court against Health Canada back in 1998, and won. Health Canada has spent millions of dollars since then, fighting against medical marijuana access every single step of the way, only to lose over and over again.

Yet even when they lose in court, Health Canada still refuses to comply. Here's one example of their extreme dickishness. Under the original program, Health Canada arbitrarily decided that designated growers could only grow for one patient at a time. The courts ruled that was an unnecessary and unconstitutional restriction, and struck out the limit. Health Canada responded by setting the new limit to two patients per grower. Take that you ungrateful sick people!

In fact, Health Canada is so bad at complying with court decisions that back in 2003 they broke pot prohibition, and accidentally legalized it for everyone!

A judge ruled that Health Canada had messed up so bad that the only way to ensure patients had access to medical marijuana was to strike down all the marijuana laws. So they did, and pot was legal all across Canada for several months. Marc Emery went around doing bong hits in front of police stations to prove it!

There's a reason patients call it "Hellth Canada," and it's not because they're doing a hell of a job.

Actually, the kind of incompetence that results in legalization for everyone is something I can get behind, but then the courts elbowed their way back in and "fixed" Health Canada's med-pot rules themselves, which was the only way they could get the genie back in the bottle and reinstate all those lovely prohibition laws which Canadians had missed so much.

If all that's not enough, here's another, more recent example. Not only is Health Canada still fighting in court to keep patients from growing their own cannabis medicine, they're also battling to stop patients from even making their own cannabis tea or cookies!

Health Canada has already limited the licensed producers to only selling dried, smokable buds. But if a patient chooses to cook that legal bud with some butter, then strain out the plant matter and spread that infused canna-butter on toast, Health Canada says they have committed a criminal offence! Like always, they're willing to spend your tax dollars to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court if they have to.

If Health Canada spent as much time and money on researching medical marijuana and creating a properly run system as they have on court battles against patients, then we'd all be a lot better off. But unless you've just taken a big bong-hit, I wouldn't hold your breath.


Suggest a correction
This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact