Quebec Doctors’ College Releases Guidelines for Prescribing Marijuana to Patients

Quebec’s College of Physicians of Quebec (“CMQ”) released guidelines it Quebec physicians must follow to prescribe medical marijuana.  In a nut shell, CMQ takes the position that dried marijuana is not recognized for medical purposes and that it should only be prescribed by Quebec physicians for research purposes.

Federal Superior Court of Canada’s Injunction Welcomed by Applicants for Medical Marihuana Producer Licenses

In 2001, Health Canada granted access to marijuana for medical purposes by implementing the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (“MMAR”).  Under MMAR, patients and other private persons were permitted to produce their own supply.  In 2013, the Government of Canada announced that MMAR would be replaced with new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (“MMPR”), thereby treating marijuana similar to the treatment of other narcotics approved for medical purposes.   Under MMPR, private production would be prohibited in favour of licensed medical marijuana production and distribution.  Health Canada’s authorization of the production of marijuana for medical purposes in private residences under MMAR will end March 31, 2014 and MMAR will be repealed and replaced on April 1, 2014 with the MMPR.

The prohibition on private production of medical marijuana is being challenged and in connection with this challenge, on March 21, 2014, a Federal Supreme Court of Canada judge granted an injunction that exempts currently licensed marijuana users and producers from the terms of the incoming MMPR.  Essentially, those exempt users and producers can continue to possess, use and produce medical marijuana under the MMAR rules.  Access to medical marijuana to treat chronic conditions was the basis for the Court’s decision to grant the injunction.

Surprisingly, applicants to become licensed producers under MMPR are welcoming the injunction since many will be sourcing their start-up marijuana plants from MMAR producers.  If an applicants does not receive its medical marihuana producer license by March 31, 2014 it faced losing its valuable supply and having to scramble for a new source.    The injunction is a temporary measure and it remains to be seen whether private production will ultimately be permitted to coexist with commercial licensed production.   If that is in fact the outcome, will licensed producers suffer from a reduction in their customer base?

If you have any questions or would like more information regarding the Federal Superior Court’s decision or the laws applicable to medical marijuana in Canada, call or email Koby Smutylo at 613 869 5440 or koby@lawyercorporation.ca.

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Advertising Medical Marijuana in Canada Similar to Advertising Any Other Narcotic

Health Canada is licensing private producers to produce and sell medical marijuana under Canada’s new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (“MMPR”).   Since marijuana is a narcotic, the advertising and promotional activities available to marijuana producers licensed under MMPR are the same as those available to pharmaceutical companies in Canada.

The Narcotics Control Regulation (Canada) (“NCR”), s. 70, prohibits “any advertisement to the general public respecting a narcotic”.    The term “advertisement is defined broadly to encompass any “representation” that “directly or indirectly” promotes the sale of a narcotic.  It is not advertising per se that is prohibited but advertising to the “general public”.   The NCR also requires that any advertisement include the symbol “N”, “clearly and conspicuously”, to put consumers on notice that what is being advertised is a narcotic.

How are licensed medical marihuana producers to reach customers? The Distinction Between Advertising and Other Activities (the “Drug Ad Policy”) policy statement issued by Health Canada to provide guidance to the pharmaceutical industry potentially provides some important guidance on promotional activities from press releases to consumer brochures to journal supplements.   In the Drug Ad Policy, Health Canada draws the distinction between advertising to promote the sale of a drug and activities that are not primarily intended to promote the sale of a drug (e.g., education, scientific exchange, labeling, shareholder’s report, etc.), the former being prohibited and the latter being permitted to be made to the general public.  Licensed medical marijuana producers are encouraged to review and observe the Drug Ad Policy.

In addition, licensed medical marihuana producers should also educate themselves on the labeling and packaging  requirements set out in the Food and Drug Act (Canada) (the “FDA”).   Specifically, the FDA prohibits labelling, packaging or selling in a manner that is false, misleading or likely to create an erroneous impression about the character or safety of the drug. For example, unsubstantiated health claims cannot be put on product packaging.

The MMPR also imposes certain obligations on medical marihuana licensed producers regarding advertising.  Under Section 16 of the MMPR “A licensed producer must include their name, as set out in their licence, on all the means by which the producer identifies themself in relation to cannabis, including advertising, product labels, orders, shipping documents and invoices.”

If you have any questions or would like more information regarding advertising medical marijuana in Canada, call or email Koby Smutylo at 613 869 5440 or koby@lawyercorporation.ca.

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