Trina Fraser: Time to Overhaul the MMPR

October 28, 2015 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ News

Since last week’s election, I have been inundated with phone calls, emails and social media posts asking for my opinion on cannabis legalization. What will it look like (Will home grows be permitted? Will dispensaries be permitted? Will edibles be permitted? etc. etc.) When will it happen?

Well…I have absolutely no idea. There are many different scenarios that can be envisioned for legalization or decriminalization and the path to be taken by our new Liberal government remains to be seen. How quickly anything happens will be driven more by politics than anything else, I believe.

But here’s what I do know: the MMPR is flawed. If I were advising our new incoming Minister of Health, I would suggest that step one should be an overhaul of the program. Licensed producers are not going anywhere. Regardless of what ‘legalization’ may mean for these producers, we need to create a workable regime within which to issue licences and within which these producers can operate and flourish. If a recreational component is to be added, it makes sense to build upon a solid foundation.

The following 4 changes would be a really good start:

  • Turn the MMPR into a cost recovery program – I have no idea why this wasn’t done from the outset. MMPR licensed producer applications should require payment of a significant, non-refundable application fee. This would restrict applications to serious applicants with a viable business plan and an ability to raise capital. It would eliminate the ‘just put in an application and see what happens’ approach. Less applications means quicker processing time. Application fees can be used to properly staff the program, which again would mean quicker processing time. Renewals should also be subject to fees which would be used to defray the cost of ongoing inspections. It’s a no-brainer.
  • Take a good hard look at the security requirements – I’m no security expert, but the evolution of the security requirements for licensed producers seems to have reached the point of ridiculousness. Let’s get real here…the product that LP’s are being forced to track, surveil, record and lock up tighter than Fort Knox is then being put into the mail. I know enough to understand that you can never completely eliminate the risk of theft. Health Canada needs to take a practical, common-sense approach to security. As it stands, I don’t see any way for ‘micro-groweries’ to be able to meet these requirements and still be profitable. Only ‘mega-groweries’ will survive. I think that’s unnecessary and a shame.
  • Permit storefronts – The ‘mail-only delivery’ aspect of the MMPR has been a source of consternation since day-one. The many unique aspects of cannabis vs. other medications (no standardized production or products, uninformed physicians, a variety of available consumption methods, etc.) makes it inappropriate to restrict this to an on-line only business. This is an inevitable part of a recreational cannabis regime, so why not work out the kinks in the medical use context first. I have lots of ideas about what a retail component to the MMPR could/should look like and I would be happy to discuss them with Health Canada!
  • Transparency – I won’t get into any great level of detail here, but I’m sure anyone in the application processing queue would agree that the frustration level is heightened by the fact that the licensing requirements are largely unknown. The devil is in the details and the details are nowhere to be found. I hope that our new Minister of Health will task and equip the Office of Medical Cannabis to formalize and publish all requirements, procedures and standards. Application review and inspection procedures should be made public. Increased transparency will mean higher quality applications and shorter processing times. The ‘veil of secrecy’ surrounding the status of applications should be lifted.

But that’s just my two cents…



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