Canada to Legalize Marijuana for Medical Reasons
The Canadian Health Department announced Friday that patients with terminal illnesses and other "serious" conditions, such as AIDS, multiple sclerosis, "severe" arthritis and epilepsy, will be legally allowed to possess and smoke marijuana to alleviate their pain if they can prove that they cannot be successfully treated with other medications, the Globe and Mail reports. "Canada is acting compassionately by allowing people who are suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses to have access to marijuana for medical purposes," Health Minister Allan Rock said in a release. Eligible recipients must fall into one of three categories: those who are terminally ill with a prognosis of death within 12 months, those with "symptoms associated with serious medical conditions" -- including HIV/AIDS, cancer and MS -- and those "suffering from symptoms with other medical conditions." Terminal patients can receive marijuana "only if the government can determine that all conventional treatments for the symptoms have been tried or considered and that marijuana would mitigate" those symptoms. Category two patients will be eligible to receive the drug if they can demonstrate other forms of treatment were "ineffective" or if the patient displayed an allergic reaction or side effect to another treatment. The measure also has provisions for the licensing of third party growers, sets a maximum for the number of indoor and outdoor plants and provides for inspection procedures and background checks. The proposal, which will go into effect July 15, was officially "tabled" Saturday, and Canadians have 30 days to respond to the measure before it becomes law. The measure was made "necessary" after the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled last summer that Canada's marijuana possession laws were unconstitutional (Laghi, Globe and Mail, 4/6). The court called on the government to clarify the rules and make them more "transparent, particularly by defining who can apply" for permission to use the drug (Reuters/New York Times, 4/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.