This weeks blog entries will be a three-part series. Blog posts for the week of January 8, 2018, are focused on questions posed by Health Canada’s consultation paper on their proposed approach to regulating cannabis. I encourage you to fill out the online questionnaire, email or write your responses before January 20, 2018.

If you haven’t already read Part 1, please click here.

Part 2 (Questions 4-8 of 12)

Canada’s Premier, Justin Trudeau (Liberal), has committed to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis. [emphasis added] Health Canada is soliciting feedback from interested parties who want to have their voice heard concerning the proposed regulations.

As much information as possible will be posted via the Canadian Gazette later this year.

  1. What do you think about the proposed requirements for certain individuals associated with a licensed organization to hold a security clearance issued by the Minister of Health? Do you think the proposal appropriately addresses positions of greatest risk?

Under the current access to cannabis for medical purposes regulations (ACMPR), if a patient cannot, or does not want to grow their own cannabis, but can’t afford to pay the average $900/month (average prescribed amount is 2.5g/day) to licensed producers, they can designate another party to grow cannabis for them.

While this process is in place, it provides no direction on compensation for the licensed grower. If you were growing medicine for someone, are you doing so at your own expense and giving it away for free? Not likely.

The proposed system does not address the above issue, which in itself could create organized crime (three people), but rather an environment where rules are made ad hoc with vaguely worded proposals “…authorize[ing] the Minister to conduct theses [relevant files of law enforcement agencies, including intelligence] checks at any point after the security clearance has been issued”. [emphasis added] and the authority to suspend or cancel a security clearance upon receipt of information “…of the opinion that the holder of the clearance poses an unacceptable risk to the integrity of the control of the production and distribution of cannabis…”[emphasis added] How this change in security clearance will affect medical patients is still unclear.

If the greatest risk is to prevent legal cannabis being diverted to the illegal market, the Cannabis Tracking System (CTS, outlined in section 4 of the consultation) could be sufficient, by itself, to deter diversion to the black market. In my experience working with one of the big five banks, I have first-hand knowledge of reviewing records for inconsistencies and preparing risk reports based on findings. If a company has invested millions of dollars in facilities, licenses, staff, lawyers, etc, after waiting years to obtain the ability to grow and or process cannabis, what incentive could one possibly have to risk losing everything?

  1. What do you think of the proposed criteria for determining whether or not an individual is eligible to hold a security clearance? Do you think that the proposed approach should permit individuals with a history of non-violent, lower-risk activity (such as simple possession or small-scale cultivation of cannabis plants) to obtain a security clearance and participate in the legal cannabis industry?

The process involves sending your fingerprints to the RCMP, consenting to a credit bureau check, and an interview/interrogation, among other requests, it may more difficult to obtain clearance to be around a plant than it is to obtain a passport. The clearance requirements currently exclude those who have been arrested for cannabis-related crimes in the past.

Treating interested parties as if they were criminals does not an incentive make.

In order to achieve the goals of the proposed regulations, that is to minimize regulatory burden and facilitate compliance among regulated parties, I propose a change to the current security process.

I propose those parties who hold a license without restricted in production (standard cultivation, processing and sale) should be subject to security clearance in its current form, but other parties should not need to meet all existing criteria to participate in the industry, such as fingerprinting.  I also propose that the limitation of 5 years be changed to 10 years, to match similar security clearances in Canada. I also suggest that individuals with a history of non-violent, lower-risk activity (such as simple possession or small-scale cultivation of cannabis plants) be able obtain a security clearance and participate in the legal cannabis industry. I think that amnesty for cannabis related offenses should be granted. This will likely become an increasingly discussed topic closer to the July 2018 deadline.

  1. What do you think about the proposal not to restrict the types of product forms that industry will be able to manufacture and sell (for example, pre-rolled dried cannabis, or cannabis oil capsules and oral sprays)? Are there any specific product forms that you think should be prohibited?

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that restricting medical access to cannabis to its dried form is inconsistent with the Charter of Right & Freedoms. Recreational and medical cannabis are misnomers; Cannabis has medicinal, recreational and spiritual value. There are cultivars bred for medicinal properties, but one does not need to suffer from seizures to enjoy Charlotte’s Web, a high CBD variety, recreationally.

There are no specific products made from or with cannabis that I think should be prohibited.

  1. What do you think about the proposed THC limits based how a product is represented to be consumed (i.e., by inhalation or by ingestion)? What do you think about the proposed limits on a unit or serving basis?

When cannabis is inhaled (vaporized or smoked), the effects peak relatively quickly (eight to fifteen minutes) and last between one and two hours. Edibles are delayed in their effects, often taking upwards of an hour, and last between four and six hours. The reason for the difference is due to processing by the liver prior to entering the bloodstream. The liver metabolizes THC into 11-hydroxy-THC. This metabolite is twice as potent as its predecessor. This means that an edible is a different high than via inhalation.

The best choice for minimizing the effects of ingesting too much THC is via public education. Someone new to cannabis that isn’t aware how he or she will be affected could choose a dose higher than needed. Over-ingestion’s temporary side effects include feeling paranoid, lethargy and elevated heart rate. If the public were informed on how to best consume edibles, as in starting low (5mg) and going slowly (waiting one hour before taking more), cannabis edibles become an experience to enjoy rather than avoid.

For recreational edibles, which will not be addressed until 2019, THC limitations on edibles are already in place in some US states, such as Colorado and California. Colorado’s limit is 10mg THC per serving to a maximum of 100mg per package. They also offer incentives by means of reduced testing for edibles under 10mg THC.

It is worth noting that edibles have been available for over a year in the form of cannabis oil. 

I am in favour the approach to regulating edibles above but stress that proper edible education should be included in the approach.

I define high THC as 20% or more. On the subject of limiting THC content of dried cannabis, this restriction would be ineffective and potentially harmful to the research of cannabis. CBD, another cannabinoid found in cannabis, reduces the psychoactivity of THC. If there was a limit on THC, then this would incentive the black market to produce higher THC strains. Education, again, is what is needed, not arbitrary restrictions.

 

What do you think about Canada’s approach to cannabis in 2018? Please leave a comment below.

Be sure to come back Friday to read Part 3 where I will be discussing:

Packaging & Labeling

Medical Cannabis: Additional Changes

Health Products Containing Cannabis

Overall Proposal Feedback

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