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The CBD and Medical Cannabis in Canada

Medical CBD
  1. The Recreational and Medical Cannabis in Canada

Cannabis is a unique plant and carries vast amount of naturally occurring compounds with biological activity on human being.  Most of these compounds alone or as whole are currently being used in cannabis industry in Canada in medicinal or recreational applications.  Canadian cannabis industry is regulated by federal government under Canadian cannabis Act[1].  Both medical and recreational cannabis industries in Canada are very closely related to each other.  However, there are several differences in some areas of medical and recreational cannabis industries, especially when considering product access, price and usage[2]  Getting to know about these differences are highly beneficial, specially to medical cannabis consumers as well and cannabis product like edibles, and CBD.

  1. Recreational Cannabis

Recreational cannabis use is similar to consuming alcohol for social or personal satisfaction.  Main intention of people who consume cannabis recreationally is to get psychoactive or intoxicating effect.  Recreational cannabis consumers do not expect any medicinal benefits of cannabis.  However, they experience some medicinal benefits of cannabis, indirectly.  As recreational cannabis does not address health related issues, it is prohibited for any recreational product to make claims about potential therapeutic effects.

According to Canadian cannabis act, any person who is at the legal age of purchase have access to recreational cannabis[1].  Each province has their own regulatory systems regarding the sales of recreational cannabis products.

  1. Medical Cannabis and CBD

Most traditional applications have shown that biologically active compounds in cannabis possess positive therapeutic effects on certain symptoms and illnesses in human.  Scientifically designed, clinical study-based evidence are still necessary to fully understand the medicinal effects of cannabis and non psychoactive products like CBD.  It is well known to scientists that some compounds in cannabis have ability to communicate with Endo Cannabinoid System (ECS) and other receptors in human body.  Several scientific studies have shown that cannabis helps to regulate some human body-related functions, conditions, and physiological pathways.

  1. Cannabis and CBD helps to regulate some important body functions
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Cannabis may help to regulate the following functions of human body[3].

  • Appetite and digestion
  • Sleep
  • Pain sensation
  • Inflammation and other immune responses
  • Mood
  • Metabolism
  • Learning and memory
  • Reproduction system function
  1. Cannabis helps to regulate some important physiological pathways

Cannabis may helps to regulate many of the most important physiological pathways, including[4]:

  • Cardiovascular activity
  • Pain perception
  • Hormonal regulation
  • Gastrointestinal activity
  • Maintenance of bone mass
  • Protection of neurons
  • Metabolism control
  • Immune function
  • Inhibition of tumor cells
  • Inflammatory reactions
  1. Cannabis and CBD helps to regulate some medical conditions

Scientific evidence shows that some medical conditions have clear relationship with ECS dysfunction of the human body.  Therefore, cannabis can use as medication to regulate these conditions.  Some of those conditions are[4-19],

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Eating disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Failure to thrive in newborns
  • Fibromyalgia/myofascial pain syndrome
  • Huntington’s diseases
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Migraine headaches
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Nausea and motion sickness
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Schizophrenia
  1. How to get medical cannabis authorization and access

According to Canadian cannabis act, it is necessary to obtain medical cannabis authorization from Health Canada, to access medical cannabis program.  Therefore, the patient should first visit a certified physician or a healthcare practitioner to conduct necessary evaluation process to decide consumption method and dosage.  This is necessary to prepare authorization documents.

Once the authorization is ready, the patient should register with a licenced producer to access medications.  The patient is allowed to register with more than one licenced producer to split the prescription to obtain different varieties and also to have reliable access to cannabis.

  1. Key Advantages and Benefits of Medical Cannabis and CBD

Compared to recreational cannabis industry, there are several advantages and benefits by joining Health Canada medical cannabis program, especially when considering prices, product access, and usage.  These are highly beneficial to consumers.  Every registered patient can enjoy these privileges.

  1. Competitive Pricing and Tax Deductions
  1. Lower prices

According to Health Canada regulations, all cannabis-based consumer product producers must follow several highly regulated production steps before the products reached consumer market.  Cultivation, processing, storage, analysis, and packaging are major steps one must follow during the production of cannabis.  In addition to that there are several other steps to follow during preparation of other consumer products.  These steps are time consuming, labour intensive and costly.  Also, substantial amount of retail markup occurs each time when the product changes from hands to hand.

In medical cannabis industry, the customer is directly connected with the producer which eliminates middlemen and retail markups.  Therefore, the medical cannabis customer can get their medicine for a lower price compared to the price of recreational products.

  1. Patients are awarded certain human rights protections 

Due to financial burdens, some patients are not able to afford their medications they need.  To overcome these situations, Government of Canada is awarding a great human right protection program called Compassionate Care Benefit Program.  This program supports veterans and patients with lower income to purchase their medications for affordable and concession price.  To receive this opportunity, the patient should enroll with Health Canada medical cannabis program.

  1. Medical cannabis and CBD  is a tax-deductible expense

Medical cannabis is considered as regular medicine by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  This is great news for patients use cannabis as medicine under Canadian cannabis act.  Therefore, patients who use cannabis as medicine can claim their expenses as deductible medical expenses.  According to CRA, cannabis medicine purchased from a licenced producer under the recommendation of a healthcare practitioner, can be claimed as legitimate medicinal expense.  These claimable items include cannabis flowers, seeds, oils, ingestible and any other cannabis consumer product purchased from a licenced producer.  In addition to that only Health Canada approved vaporizers are considered as medical devices and eligible as medical expense.

Please note that the information above is only for informational purpose and not as legal advice.  The patients should consult their tax consultants for any questions regarding this during the preparation of their taxes.  Also visit the CRA website for additional information.

  1. Excise tax may be absorbed by Licensed Producers

Excise taxes are applied at the point of manufacture and not at the end of the sale.  Currently, Canada imposes excise tax on cannabis products too.  Cannabis excise taxes are collected by the federal government and payable by licence producers.  Excise taxes are varied from province to province and default is 1$ per gram or 10% of the sales price, whatever is higher.  This tax amount is already added to the product price tag.  But the good news is some licenced producers are voluntary willing to absorb this excise tax to provide their product with a competitive price.  Only Health Canada authorized medical cannabis patients who registered with licenced producers will be able to get this opportunity.

  1. Insurance coverage for selected health conditions 

Due to lack of Drug Identification Number (DIN), medical cannabis does not consider as a pharmaceutical product.  Therefore, no health insurance providers offer any package to cover medical cannabis under prescription drug category.  However, many insurance providers have started to offer group benefit plans that cover medical cannabis under Healthcare Spending Account for several health conditions such as,

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis with pain
  • Cancer with severe pain
  • Chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting
  • Multiple Sclerosis with spasticity and/or neuropathic pain
  • HIV/AIDS with anorexia, neuropathic pain
  • Palliative care

In addition to that some insurance companies provide optional coverage for medical cannabis with their health coverage plans.

Patients are advised to discuss with their medical insurance provider regarding this coverage.

  1. Product Accessibility
  1. Accessibility to wider spectrum of products (customized products are available)

Several types of cannabis-based consumer products are available in the market and uses are able to select products according to their preference.  All these products are grouped according to their delivery method.  These different delivery methods may change the overall experience and effects[3].

Recreational cannabis uses typically use smokable flowers, vapor products and some edibles as their preferred consumption form.  However, medical consumers always prefer more user-friendly products which do not involve smoking and other vapor inhalation methods.  Therefore, most licenced producers have developed a large number of user-friendly consumer product such as cannabis extracts, tinctures, cannabis oil, topical creams, gel capsules, and edibles allowing medical cannabis patients to select their medicine according to personal preference.  In addition to, that some licence producers are willing to prepare customized medical cannabis consumer products respecting patient’s requests.

  1. Quality of the product is ensured (products are made according to Health Canada Regulations)

Cannabis industry is a strictly regulated industry in Canada under Cannabis Act[1].  Each process involved starting from cultivation to retail market is inspected and regulated by Health Canada.  It is mandatory to follow rigorous quality assurance and controlling process during the production of cannabis-based consumer product for human use.  These cannabis consumer products undergo mandatory testing for agrochemicals, microbials, solvent residues, and heavy metal contamination to ensure that each product meets the necessary requirements to achieve the highest quality before it reaches consumer market.

Medical cannabis patients always get the best quality products when they directly deal with licenced producers.

  1. Products are always ready for the patient

Medical cannabis program existed in Canada, long time before it was legalized to recreational use.  This was conducted under ACMPR licensing program by health Canada[2].  After legalization of cannabis, the Health Canada has granted approval for large number of new cannabis cultivators to produce enough cannabis to satisfy the demand of both medical and recreational market.  Presently, no shortage of medical cannabis in the market and many producers are willing to prioritize medical cannabis sales over recreational.  This means that medical cannabis is always in stock and ready without any shortage.  This is a great assurance given by licenced producers for medical cannabis patients.

  1. Support and education available to patients

As a regulation, medical cannabis patients are regularly evaluated, and monitored by certified healthcare practitioners.  Providing up-to-date education based on scientific research by focusing on each individual patient is one of the main tasks of a certified healthcare practitioner [2].  This is a huge advantage of a medical cannabis user.  Medical cannabis patients have great opportunity to receive valuable information from experienced medical practitioner to find the right cannabis product, proper dosage and correct cannabis strain to get maximum benefit from their medicine.  Such a monitoring system does not exist for recreational cannabis users.  This can lead to potential cannabis disorders in recreational uses.  Therefore, it is use’s responsibility to find the correct threshold and other necessary information regarding usage and other side effect of cannabis.  

  1. Convenience and fast delivery (prioritized and secured)

The Canadian primary mail delivery service, Canada post has been successfully shipping and delivering online ordered medical cannabis parcels to patients since 2013.  In addition to that Canada post has prioritized pickup and secured delivery service for medical cannabis.  Also, the parcel is under tracking until it reaches patient hand.  This program guarantees that medicine is secured and safely arrive to your doorstep without any delay.  The patient does not need to leave the house to get their medication.  The recipient is subjected to a verification process before receiving medication.  It is mandatory to provide government issued photo ID and the signature of the recipient to complete the verification process.  This delivery process is specially, very convenient for patients with disability and special attention.

  1. Medical usage of cannabis
  1. Medical cannabis and CBD uses can use their medicine mostly anywhere within Canada as a medical patient

Recreational cannabis uses must obey strict consumption regulation enforced by federal and provincial governments to consume cannabis products in public areas.  Some laws are varied from province to province.  However, authorized medical cannabis patients have more freedom and flexibility regarding where they can consume their medicine.  Some provinces within Canada allows medical cannabis patients to utilize their inhalation products in any public area.  In addition to that, with proper authorization documents, medical cannabis patients can use their medication at work and in most public places excluding parks, hospitals, and playgrounds.  It is your responsibility and understanding that medical cannabis consumption must not carried out in the presence of children.

  1. Medical cannabis and CBD uses can travel anywhere within Canada with their medicine

Canadian laws allow all cannabis and CBD consumers to carry their consumables when they travel by any public or private transportation system (car, train, plane etc.) within Canada.  These cannabis products must be secured in unreachable location of the vehicle to avoid use by anyone in the vehicle during the travel.  According to the law, recreational uses are allowed to carry 30 grams of dried cannabis.  However, this amount is much higher for medical uses.  Medical cannabis uses are permitted to carry 150 grams of dried cannabis during the travel within Canada[2].  This is a great privilege of being an authorized medical cannabis user.

It is important to mention here that these laws are only valid within Canada and not accepted by any international law enforcement authority.  Traveling with cannabis (medical or recreational) internationally will result in serious criminal charges both at home and abroad.  This rule also applies when flying from Canada to international country where cannabis is legalized.  This rule even applies to flying or driving to the United States, where some states have legalized cannabis.

  1. Personal possession limit for medical user is higher than recreational uses

According to Canada Cannabis Act, all cannabis uses are allowed to posses 30 grams of dried cannabis or equivalent cannabis product at any given time.  This amount is the limit for recreational users.  However, medical cannabis users are permitted to posses 30 day-supply of dry cannabis up to 150 gram maximum or equivalent cannabis products[2].  The maximum daily allowance for medical cannabis patient is generally up to 5 grams of dry cannabis per day.  This is an average value and some time this number can be higher.  Even with a higher amount of cannabis per day, the maximum possession limit for medical cannabis is 150 grams of dry cannabis or equivalent cannabis product at any given time.

  1. Storage limit for medical user is higher than recreational uses

Even though, adults are allowed to purchase or posses 30 grams of dry cannabis, the personal legal storage limit for recreational cannabis user is 150 grams of cannabis at their residence at any given time.  This rule may vary over different provinces of Canada.

However, according to new cannabis regulations, no personal storage limit for medical cannabis user and they can store as much cannabis as they want at home[2].  This is good news as well as big advantage for medical cannabis users.

  1. Growing limit for medical user is higher than recreational uses.

The main difference between growing cannabis for recreational use and growing with a medical cannabis authorization is the amount of cannabis plants that can be grown.  A recreationally grower can only have 4 plants per household.  But there is no set number of plants that is allowed to grow with the medical cannabis authorization.  The main factor for how many plants a patient can grow is the prescription size.  The higher the prescription, the more plants that patient can grow[2].  Also, medical cannabis patients can assign a certified grower to cultivate their cannabis supply for them.

  1. Summery

Canadian cannabis industries are regulated by federal government under Canadian Cannabis Act.  The industry is mainly focusing on to provide service to medical and recreational based consumer market.  Both medical and recreational cannabis industries are very closely related to each other.  However, there are several differences in some areas of medical and recreational cannabis industries, especially when considering product access, price, and usage.  These differences are highly beneficial, specially to medical cannabis consumers.  This document points out several important benefits offer to authorize medical cannabis consumers by medical cannabis industry.  Every registered patient can enjoy these privileges.

  1. References:



[3] B. Goldstein., Cannabis is Medicine, Little, Brown Spark, Hachette Book Group Inc., NY, USA (2020).

[4] F. Grotenhermen et al. (Eds.), Cannabis and Cannabinoids, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential, Routledge, NY, USA (2008).

[5] A. Q Yin et al., Integrating Endocannabinoid Signaling in the Regulation of Anxiety and Depression, Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, 40, No 3, 336-341 (2019).

[6] D. Centonze et al., The Endocannabinoid System is Dysregulated in Multiple Sclerosis and in Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis, Brain, 130, pt 10, 2543-2553 (2007).

[7] F. Montecucco et al., At the Heart of the Matter: The Endocannabinoid System in Cardiovascular Function and Dysfunction, Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 33, No 6, 331-340 (2012).

[8] I. Kaufmann et al., Enhanced Anandamide Plasma Levels in Patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Following Traumatic Injury: A Preliminary Report, European Surgical Research, 43, No 4, 325-329 (2009).

[9] P. Monteleone et al., Blood Level of the Endocannabinoid Anandamide are Increased in Anorexia Nervosa and in Binga-Eating Disorder, but not in Bulimia Nervosa, Neuropsychopharmacology, 30, No 6, 1216-1221 (2005).

[10] A. Ludanyi et al., Downregulation of the CB1 Cannabinoid Receptor and Related Molecular Elements of the Endocannabinoid System in Epileptic Human Hippocampus, Journal of Neuroscience, 20, No 12, 2976-2990 (2008).

[11] E. Fride et al., Endocannabinoids and Food Intake: Newborn Suckling and Appetite Regulation in Adulthood, Experimental Biology and Medicine, 230, No 4, 225-234 (2005).

[12] I. Kaufmann et al., Anandamide and Neutrophil Function in Patients with Fibromyalgia, Psychoneuroendocrinology, 33, No 5, 676-685 (2008).

[13] M. D. Sepers et al., Endocannabinoid-Specific Impairment in Synaptic Plasticity in Striatum of Huntington’s Disease Mouse Model, Journal of Neurosciences, 38, No 3, 544-554 (2018).

[14] M. A. Storr et al., The Role of the Endocannabinoid System in the Pathophysiology and Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 20, No 8, 857-868 (2008).

[15] P. Sarchilli et al., Endocannabinoids in Chronic Migraine: CFS Finding Suggests a System Failure, Neuropsychopharmacology, 32, No 6, 1384-1390 (2007).

[16] V. Chiurchiu et al., The Endocannabinoid System and its Therapeutic Exploration in Multiple Sclerosis: Clues for Other Neuroinflammatory Diseases, Progress in Neurobiology, 160, 82-100 (2018).

[17] M. A. Sticht et al., Endocannabinoid Mechanisms Influencing Nausea, International Review of Neurobiology, 125, 127-162 (2015).

[18] E. Murillo-Rodriguez (ed.), The Endocannabinoid System, Academic Press, Cambridge, MA (2017).

[19] D. Koethe et al., Familial Abnormalities of Endocannabinoid Signaling in Schizophrenia, World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 20, No 2, 117-125 (2019).

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