Pubdate: Wed, 22 Apr 2015
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2015 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Laura Kane
Page: S4


Many medical marijuana patients in Canada are struggling to buy pot
under current laws and are turning to the black market, a University
of British Columbia study has found.

About one-third of 450 patients reported in a national survey that
they could not access marijuana legally under federal rules, said PhD
student Rielle Capler.

"They really want to be able to use this medicine legally," she

"They've expressed patience and understanding that there are some
growing pains, but in the meantime they're also sharing that it's
really impacting =C2=85 their health and well-being."

The study, led by Ms. Capler and UBC nursing Prof. Lynda Balneaves,
looks at the impact of shifting federal regulations on patients. While
the results are preliminary, Ms. Capler said many participants
reported facing barriers, including cost and supply.

Canadian marijuana patients have faced regulatory upheaval over the
past year. The old rules, the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations
(MMAR), allowed licence holders to grow pot themselves or find
designated growers.

The regulations were to be replaced in April, 2014, by a new program,
called the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), which
requires patients to buy cannabis from commercially licensed producers.

But a court injunction has kept the old program alive for
already-enrolled patients, until a constitutional challenge of the new
rules could be heard. Advocates are eagerly awaiting a decision in
Vancouver's Federal Court.

Only about an eighth of survey respondents are enrolled in the new
program, said Ms. Capler.

She said one major issue is affordability, noting the old program
allowed patients to grow their own marijuana at a cost of about $2 a
gram, compared with purchasing it at about $8 to $10 a gram through
the new program.

Other issues include difficulty getting a doctor's approval in rural
areas and inadequate supply from the larger companies that operate
under the MMPR.

"People don't want to be breaking the law to get the medicine they
need, so patients have expressed a lot of stress and anxiety around
potentially having to do that," she said.

Many patients are turning to dispensaries, which are abundant in
Vancouver but technically illegal. These dispensaries do require a
doctor's confirmation and have standards around quality of supply.

Cannabis company Kaneh Bosm has also announced that it will bring two
high-tech marijuana vending machines to Vancouver, though it isn't
disclosing where they will be located yet.
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