Is It Legal To Purchase Marijuana For Medical Use?

Although marijuana is currently legal in Canada when prescribed for a medical purpose, there is much public uncertainty about how and where it can be obtained and used. For example, there are numerous marijuana “dispensaries” popping up across the country. These retail shops sell a variety of different strains and flavours of marijuana to the public, typically without requiring a prescription or any other information from purchasers. But are these dispensaries legally permitted to sell marijuana?

The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations came into force last summer. These federal regulations establish a framework for commercial production of marijuana by licensed producers of quality-controlled fresh or dried marijuana, cannabis oil, and seeds/plants. The key point is that only federally licensed producers of marijuana can fill prescriptions in Canada. At present, there are about 38 such licensed producers, and they do not have retail outlets. They fill all prescriptions for medical marijuana via direct home delivery.

Alternatively, patients registered with Health Canada may grow limited quantities of their own medical marijuana, subject to possession, production and storage limits, and other restrictions.

Aside from authorized purchasing and growing of medical marijuana by patients with the appropriate prescription and Health Canada certification, it remains illegal to sell, provide, give away, or advertise cannabis. While it appears that enforcement of the law is somewhat inconsistent in light of predicted changes to Canada’s marijuana laws under our current government, technically these store-front dispensaries do not appear to be complying with legal restrictions on the purchase and possession of marijuana. As such, caution should be exercised when considering a retail store for the purchase of medical marijuana.

About the Authors


Adam Little earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in 1996. He graduated from Queen’s University Faculty of Law in 2000 and was called to the bar in 2002. Adam was practicising on Bay Street for a leading Toronto litigation firm that represented doctors in medical malpractice claims when he realized that helping people through personal injury litigation was what he wanted to do. “I wanted to work for the best,” he said. A partner at Oatley Vigmond had written the best-known book available about addressing jury trials, which Adam had read and admired. He wrote to the partner, went through an intense interview process and became a partner at the firm in 2005.

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