On Friday June 13, 2014, Health Canada proposed additional amendments to the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations ("MMPR"). Health Canada intends to create a prescription monitoring program to keep tabs on the use and prescription patterns of healthcare professionals prescribing marihuana for medical purposes. The stated objective of the amendments is to collect information that will enhance the capacity of medical and nursing licensing authorities ("Licensing Bodies") to monitor the professional practices of their members with regard to medical marihuana. While these amendments could be beneficial, the compliance burden would fall squarely on the shoulders of licensed producers.
Since the coming into force of the MMPR, the provincial Licensing Bodies appear to have been reluctant to provide guidance or direction to their members on the use of marihuana for medical purposes. In proposing these amendments, Health Canada seems to be responding to the hesitation expressed by these provincial entities. The relevant Licensing Bodies are those responsible for the regulation of the professional practices of physicians and nurse practitioners which have identified the need to obtain information that would allow them to provide better education, and support to their members with respect to marihuana for medical purposes, as well as to promote patient safety.
To this end, the proposed amendments to the MMPR would require licensed producers of marihuana for medical purposes, to file with Licensing Bodies, if requested, semi-annual reports listing which of their members currently have patients registered with licensed producers. These reports would include (i) a healthcare practitioner's information (name, address and professional licence number), (ii) daily quantity of dried marihuana prescribed for each individual patient, (iii) the period of use, (iv) the date the referral document to the licensed producer was signed by the practitioner as well as (v) other basic patient information (name and date of birth). Particulars that would be provided to the Licensing Bodies pursuant to these amendments appear to be consistent with the information collected by other provincial and territorial prescription monitoring programs. In its Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, Health Canada states that such information will make follow-up with healthcare practitioners with respect to professional practice, more meaningful and targeted.
What does this mean for licensed producers or those seeking to become licensed producers? Simply, licensed producers will bear the responsibility to prepare, store and securely transmit reports to various Licensing Bodies. Under the current legislation, licensed producers are already required to retain records related to their registered patients. As such, the cost for licensed producers to share information with Licensing Bodies are not expected to be significant. However, the costs in retrieving, transmitting and following up on the information to be communicated to multiple Licensing Bodies have not been fully quantified. A compromise might be to propose the creation of a centralized process by which licensed producers may file their reports, which may be accessed by Licensing Bodies, as they wish. Centralization may help to minimize the administrative burden on licensed producers but nevertheless provide the data the Licensing Bodies so deeply desire.
The proposed amendments will be published in Canada Gazette, Part 1 for a 30-day public comment period. Interested parties are encouraged to submit any comments to Health Canada by July 13, 2014.