Getting Started with Medical Cannabis: ACMPR

Disclaimer: This guide is drawn from CFAMM’s experience. Consult with your health care provider should you have any medical-related questions or concerns. For questions regarding the ACMPR program itself, contact Health Canada’s Office of Medical Cannabis by phone (1-866-337-7705) or email (omc-bcm@hc-sc.gc.ca).
1. Familiarize yourself with the ACMPR, know your rights.

In August 2016, Canada introduced the latest medical cannabis regime, the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (“ACMPR”). Upon authorization by a physician, patients can choose to either purchase their cannabis through a Licensed Producer (“LP”), produce/grow cannabis themselves, or designate someone to produce/grow cannabis for them.

Quick facts:

  • The ACMPR allows for patients to legally purchase and possess medical cannabis by receiving an authorization through what’s known as a “medical document” and then using it to register with an LP or Health Canada, as explained below.
  • A “medical document” is similar to a prescription and even considered equivalent to one in many provinces. See our college policy list for more information or if you encounter issues with physicians authorizing cannabis (i.e. charging fees for access).
  • Cannabis ordered through an LP is sent to patients’ residence via courier. It is tested for safety (i.e. contaminants) and potency (i.e. THC and CBD).
  • LPs are only able to sell cannabis oils and dried cannabis to their patients. Additionally LPS can sell starting matters (i.e. seeds and clones) to patients registered with Health Canada to grow at home. Patients are legally able to turn their cannabis into whichever form they require, although some limitations (under the Section 56 exemption) apply.
  • Patients can possess up to 30x their daily authorized amount or 150 grams, whichever is less of the two. If your monthly authorized amount exceeds 150 grams you will have to place multiple orders per month to prevent exceeding this limit. 
 Although this guide contains some information on personal production, it is more focused on Licensed Producer access at present. We are in the process of creating a personal production guide, so please check back soon if you are looking to produce your own medicine. 
2. Have an initial discussion with your physician

Talk with your physician to see if your condition is indicated for medical cannabis treatment. If you’ve already tried cannabis and found relief, tell this to your physician.

If the physician is knowledgeable about cannabis and willing to authorize you, ask them questions like:

  • What strain of cannabis would you recommend for my condition (i.e. High CBD, Low THC, 1:1 THC/CBD, etc.) and what dose?
  • What are the potential risks and benefits associated with cannabis treatment?
  • What route of administration would you recommend (oral ingestion, vaporization, sublingual, etc.)?

Many physicians aren’t familiar with medical cannabis authorization and treatment. If you are having trouble finding a supportive physician, you can go to a specialized medical cannabis clinic (some require a referral). Although CFAMM does not recommend or endorse any specific clinics, these resources can help you locate one:

Visit Lift Cannabis’ clinic listVisit Leafly’s clinic list


3. Get a medical document signed by a physician

If you had a positive initial conversation, your next step is to get your physician to sign a medical document. Some patients choose to ask for multiple medical documents so they can register with more than one licensed producer. Cannabis clinics often have medical documents at hand but family physicians may not, so we advise you to print the document for your appointment:

Download Medical Document (via Health Canada) 


4. Register with an LP (to order cannabis) or Health Canada (to produce your own cannabis)

Patients can choose to use the medical document to either:

  1. Register with a Licensed Producer, or
  2. Register with Health Canada to either produce your own supply or designate a producer.

Licensed Producer Registration 

You may register with only one LP per medical document and you cannot transfer between LP’s once registered. It is suggested to ‘split’ your authorized dose between two medical documents so you can register with two licensed producers. This will help reduce the risk of your sole producer not having adequate supply.

Do research on each licensed producer’s website (a list of LP’s can be found here) and review sites like Lift. You can contact the producers directly or research online to answer questions like:

  • Is there a waitlist to register?
    • If so, how long is it?
  • How long will the registration process normally take?
  • What strains do you offer?
    • Do they have what your physician recommended?
    • Can you continually supply the strain of my choice month after month or is there inconsistency in its supply?
  • Are you licensed to sell other cannabis products (i.e. oils)?
    • If so, which ones?
  • What are your prices?
    • Do prices include shipping?
    • Do you offer a compassionate pricing program?
  • Is the cannabis standardized (is each ‘batch’ consistent)?
  • Do you follow organic practices / do you have organic certification?
  • What do you offer that other LP’s don’t?

Once you’ve made up your mind, follow the LP’s registration process, which generally includes a few forms to be filled out by the patient with more detailed information than the medical document.

 Self/Designated Production Registration with Health Canada

Visit Health Canada’s guide for self/designated production, ordering, and legal information.

6. Your first order with a licensed producer

For your first order, don’t go all out – buy only what your health care provider recommended. Many patients start out with high CBD, low THC strains to reduce potential for the psychoactive/”high” feeling. You can try other strains at a later time if the initial ones don’t work.

Keep a log to track each dose and how much it helped. Track information such as amount and strain used, time of day, symptom being treated, and effectiveness in the log.

Smoking any substance including cannabis is generally not recommended, so we advise patients to purchase a vaporizer if inhalation is the desired administration method. Vaporization allows for the advantages of inhalation, such as quick onset of action (within minutes), but limits potential by-produts that are produced by smoking/combustion. 
 7. Review log before ordering again
  • Review your logbook to see what worked best. Order accordingly. If nothing was successful for you, try something else or talk to your health care practitioner.
Links:

Health Canada

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