Quebec doctors can now prescribe medical marijuana
BY AARON DERFEL, THE GAZETTE APRIL 1, 2014
Quebec doctors will now be able to prescribe medical marijuana — but only for patients enrolled in research studies and for the treatment of a limited number of medical conditions — under new guidelines unveiled Tuesday by the province’s College of Physicians.
The Quebec medical guidelines are believed to be the first in Canada since new federal regulations on medical marijuana took effect on Tuesday.
Until now, Quebec doctors did not have the right to prescribe cannabis, only to diagnose certain medical conditions and fill out a form that a patient could then use to apply for an authorization by Health Canada to possess, grow and consume marijuana.
The authorizations for an estimated 40,000 medical marijuana users across the country were to have expired on Tuesday, but the Federal Court of Canada issued an injunction in March allowing patients to continue to grow their own supply for now. On Monday, the federal government announced it plans to fight that injunction.
Under the revised federal regulations, Health Canada will no longer supply medical marijuana and individuals with medical conditions will no longer be permitted to grow pot. The Harper government intends to choose commercial producers to cultivate marijuana under “secure and sanitary conditions,” and to distribute it through the mail to patients.
The Quebec College of Physicians long-standing position, repeated Tuesday, is that “the use of cannabis for medical purposes is not a treatment that is recognized by the medical profession.”
Dr. Yves Robert, secretary of the College, added that medical marijuana creates “a dependency” similar to tobacco, and that is something that concerns physicians.
Adam Greenblatt, executive director of the Medical Cannabis Access Society, criticized the Quebec guidelines for imposing more restrictions than the old federal regulations.
He noted that the under the new provincial guidelines, only the following conditions will be considered for a medical marijuana prescription: multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, spinal cord disease, cancer, AIDS or HIV infection, severe arthritis, epilepsy and palliative care.
Those are considered Category 1 conditions under federal regulations. But Health Canada also allows for Category 2 conditions for people who suffer from painful symptoms that are not outlined in the first category. Unfortunately this new provincial legislation makes no allowances for medicinal weed treatment of the pain associated with so-called Category 2 conditions.
“For now, this is actually worse than the old program, because it cuts out a lot of patients who don’t fit into this first category that the College released,” Greenblatt said.
IN OTHER WORDS (Mine) doctors now finally have the right to prescribe medicinal marijuana but only for the following so-called Category 1 conditions: multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, spinal cord disease, cancer, AIDS or HIV infection, severe arthritis, epilepsy and palliative care.
So the government has taken what I would call a teeny-tiny step in the right direction, that is towards the eventual legalization of marijuana across the board, not only for medical purposes any more. However, it is only the government of Quebec once again going forward while the rest if the provinces spin their wheels in a constitutional area of Shared (CONCURRENT) jurisdiction.
Quite honestly, aside from my understanding of the constitutional division of powers which tells me that the federal government gets the nod in case of a conflict and subsequent deadlock between the will of the province’s and that of Ottawa, I really don’t know what would happen in this case. In other words if there were to be a stalemate/deadlock between the provinces and the Feds on the legalization question, who would prevail?
And almost more importantly, how would it be decided or who would be the final arbiter; who would say which side won? “Can you tell me please, who won?” I guess the ultimate and final arbiter would be the court system, headed by the federal Supreme Court.
 There are four classifications of the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments in Canada, one of which is “SHARED” or “CONCURRENT” jurisdictions in the following three areas: Agriculture, Finance and Health. Other divisions include those powers “RESERVED” for federal government jurisdiction, “ENUMERATED” or “listed” powers belonging to the provinces, and “RESIDUAL” powers allocated in theory to the federal government. We will be dealing with these in more detail in a future JuicyLesson.
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