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BCCCS Operational Standards for the Cultivation and Distribution of Medicinal Cannabis

The British Columbia Compassion Club Society has put together a set of standards for the cultivation, use, and distribution of cannabis. This document is far more relevant and comprehensive than the Health Canada equivalent, addressing: 1) different methods of ingestion, 2) harm reduction techniques, 3) strain/symptom information, and 4) safe cultivation tips. We urge Health Canada, the press, and the public to examine this important document so that we can work towards the truly safe and compassionate distribution of this benign medicine.

Cannabis : Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy

Report of the Senate Special Committee on llegal Drugs

Chapter 9 - Use of marijuana for therapeutic Purposes

The Committee is of the opinion that the potential therapeutic uses of marijuana have been sufficiently documented to permit its use for therapeutic purposes. It should be acknowledged that smoking marijuana can have harmful side effects, particularly for the respiratory system, and users should be informed accordingly. It should also be acknowledged that research is needed to further clarify the specific field of marijuana use and the long-term effects of marijuana.

  • There are clear, though non-definitive indications of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana in the following conditions: analgesic for chronic pain, antispasm for multiple sclerosis, anticonvulsive for epilepsy, antiemetic for chemotherapy and appetite stimulant for cachexia.
  • There are less clear indications regarding the effect of marijuana on glaucoma and other medical conditions.
  • Generally, the effects of smoked marijuana are more specific and occur faster than the effects of synthetic compounds.
  • The absence of certain cannabinoids in synthetic compounds can lead to harmful side effects, such as panic attacks and cannabinoid psychoses.
  • Smoked marijuana is potentially harmful to the respiratory system.
  • People who smoke marijuana for therapeutic purposes self-regulate their use depending on their physical condition and do not really seek the psychoactive effect
  • People who smoke marijuana for therapeutic purposes prefer to have a choice as to methods of use.
  • Measures should be taken to support and encourage the development of alternative practices, such as the establishment of compassion clubs.
  • The practices of these organizations are in line with the therapeutic indications arising from clinical studies and meet the strict rules on quality and safety
  • The studies that have already been approved by Health Canada must be conducted as quickly as possible.
  • The qualities of the marijuana used in those studies must meet the standards of current practice in compassion clubs, not NIDA standards.
  • The studies should focus on applications and the specific doses for various medical conditions.
  • Health Canada should, at the earliest possible opportunity, undertake a clinical study in cooperation with Canadian compassion clubs.

Chapter 13 - Regulating Therapeutic Use of Cannabis

We have observed the following:

  • The MMAR are not providing a compassionate framework for access to marijuana for therapeutic purposes and are unduly restricting the availability of marijuana to patients who may receive health benefits from its use;
  • The refusal of the medical community to act as gatekeepers and the lack of access to legal sources of cannabis appear to make the current regulatory scheme an “illusory” legislative exemption and raises serious Charter implications;
  • In almost one year, only 255 people have been authorized to possess marijuana for therapeutic purposes under the MMAR and only 498 applications have been received – this low participation rate is of concern;
  • Changes are urgently needed with regard to who is eligible to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes and how such people gain access to cannabis;
  • Research on the safety and efficacy of cannabis has not commenced in Canada because researchers are unable to obtain the product needed to conduct their trials;
  • No attempt has been made in Health Canada’s current research plan to acknowledge the considerable expertise currently residing in the compassion clubs;
  • The development of a Canadian source of research-grade marijuana has been a failure.

Access to cannabis

Concerns regarding patients' ability to grow marijuana on their own or to find a person willing and able to do it for them were often raised. This problem is compounded by the condition in the MMAR that a person cannot be the holder of more than one licence to produce. Problems associated with the present scheme include a lack of experience in cultivation; products of unknown potency and quality; security risks related to cultivation of marijuana; etc.

Undoubtedly, patients must have access to safe and high-quality cannabis products. The current option of self-cultivation should remain open for those who prefer this avenue. In such cases, the patient would register directly with Health Canada. In cases where self-cultivation is not appropriate or feasible, access should be permitted through properly regulated Dedicated Cannabis Distribution Centres. These centres would be staffed by personnel with knowledge of the therapeutic use of cannabis, who could advise patients on the dosage, strain and potency best suited for their particular conditions. The failure to obtain a domestic source of research-grade marijuana, as had been planned, provides further justification for allowing distribution centres to dispense high-quality cannabis to eligible patients. In addition, we are convinced that the government should not be the only distributor of cannabis intended for therapeutic purposes. Currently, Compassion Clubs play a very important role in distributing cannabis to those who need it for therapeutic purposes.


  • The diagnosis of a medical doctor or other medical practitioner regulated by a provincial colleges of physicians; and surgeons would suffice for the purpose of authorizing therapeutic use;
  • Eliminate the requirement to consult one or two specialists;
  • Eliminate the requirement that all conventional treatments have been tried or at least considered before cannabis may be used;
  • Eliminate the three categories and enumerate the medical conditions or symptoms for which cannabis use would be permitted – updating the list on a continual basis based on commissioned research;
  • Patients would be allowed to grow cannabis themselves or obtain it from dedicated distribution centres supplied by licensed producers;
  • Include all cannabis-derived related products;
  • Dosage would be determined by patient in association with the dedicated distribution centre;

Further Reading