The use of marijuana and cannabis for medical purposes has become a “hot topic” as of late, particularly as the Canadian government sets to legalize recreational marijuana in July 2018. As a personal injury lawyer, I have noticed more and more clients turning away from “conventional” opioid, anti-inflammatory, and anti-depressant prescription medication for the treatment of pain, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleep disturbances, and other conditions in favour of medical marijuana. Some clients are bothered by the side-effects and addiction risks associated with many of these conventional drugs; other clients are simply interested in trying something that they perceive to be more “natural”.
As the Canadian government prepares to legalize marijuana in July of 2018, the stigma associated with the use of marijuana, especially for medical reasons, is slowly diminishing. The question for many is no longer “if” they want to try cannabis as an alternative means of treatment, but “how” they might go about trying it. The new challenge will not be whether or not medical marijuana is accessible from a legal standpoint, but whether it will be accessible from a financial standpoint.
In this paper, I will briefly review what is required in order to legally obtain medical marijuana. I will also review some funding options that may be available to those individuals who are seeking out the treatment as a result of an injury sustained in a traumatic event, such as a car accident or slip/trip and fall.
By way of disclaimer, the author of this paper should by no means be seen as recommending the use of medical marijuana. Any personal injury victim (or otherwise) considering this form of treatment should consult with his or her physician to discuss the risks and benefits. This paper is legally, rather than medically, focused.
How to Get a “Prescription” for Medical Marijuana/Cannabis
In Canada, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act1 is the statute that prohibits illicit drugs. The current version of the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations2, however, enacted in August of 2016, provides an exemption to the CDSA. Under the ACMPR, persons are permitted to possess fresh or dried marijuana3, cannabis oil, or cannabis, if used for medical purposes and in accordance with the conditions set out in the ACMPR.
Pursuant to section 1(1) of the ACMPR a person may possess fresh or dried marijuana or cannabis oil if that person has obtained the substance for his or her own medical purposes (or for the medical purposes of someone for whom that person is responsible) from:
- a licenced producer;
- a health care practitioner in the course of treatment for a medical condition; or
- from a hospital.
A “health care practitioner” is defined in the ACMPR as “medical practitioner” (i.e. a licenced physician” or a “nurse practitioner”).
In order to prescribe one of the substances, a document similar to a standard medical subscription must be completed by the health care practitioner. Pursuant to section 8(1) of the ACMPR, this “medical document”, as it is called, must include:
- the practitioner’s given name, surname, profession, business address and telephone number, the province in which they are authorized to practice their profession and the number assigned by the province to that authorization and, if applicable, their facsimile number and email address;
- the person’s given name, surname and date of birth;
- the address of the location at which the person consulted with the practitioner;
- the daily quantity of dried marijuana, expressed in grams, that the practitioner authorizes for the person; and
- the period of use.
The College of Physicians of Surgeons of Ontario (“CPSO”) has enacted a policy entitled “Marijuana for Medical Purposes”4, which sets out the CPSO’s expectations of physicians who are considering prescribing medical marijuana or cannabis. The CPSO Policy states, for instance: