Some dispensaries selling medical cannabis were reportedly sent a letter via email today from Health Canada warning them to immediately suspend their activities that are in violation of Federal law.
The letter (an email) sets a specific timeline for adherence, following up on a public statement from Health Canada recently regarding advertising restrictions on illegal products. Dispensaries are being given 30 days to stop engaging in "all activities with controlled substances" and are being given until Sept 21 to submit a written statement indicating that the dispensary will not conduct any activities with these substances without a valid licence.
The warning letter also makes reference to Vanessa's Law (Bill C-17, the Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act ) which passed in November 2014. Violators of Vanessa's Law can face fines of up to $5-million and 2 years in prison for "regulatory offences" under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Lift has spoken to several dispensary owners today and it would appear not all have received the letter. It remains unclear if only some compassion clubs/dispensaries are being targeted, or if the emails are being sent out over a period of time, rather than all at once. Some have questioned the validity of the email. Health Canada was unavailable for comment at time of posting this article.
Dieter MacPherson, a director of The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD) and the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club comments: "Until we can ascertain the validity of the alleged letters from Health Canada I am reserving comment. I will say it is very strange that this communication was sent via email with no signature and some inconsistencies in the language."
Cannabis dispensaries in Canada, especially Vancouver, remain a popular and yet illegal and unregulated access point for cannabis for medical purposes. Vancouver City Council has sought to issue business licenses for these businesses in an effort to better control and regulate their spread, but have not made significant efforts to shut them down entirely, despite Federal protest.
More from Lift on this as it unfolds
Update 7:50pm PT: We're receiving numerous comments from people questioning the legitimacy of this email.
Update 11:30 am PT: We've received third-party confirmation via counsel that the email is legitimate.
Update 4:40pm PT: From Health Canada:
"Further to the Minister of Health's announcement on August 1, 2015, the Department took steps to proactively monitor all forms of marijuana advertising and promotion. On September 9, 2015, the Department (Office of Medical Cannabis) sent 13 letters to organizations who were found to be illegally advertising the sale of marijuana. The letters require that all advertising activities with marijuana cease.
"Health Canada will attempt to work cooperatively with all parties involved to encourage compliance. If continued non-compliance is identified, the Department may refer the case to law enforcement agencies for appropriate action."
WARNING LETTERSubject: Illegal Sale and Advertising of Marijuana
The sale and advertising of marijuana is illegal. The (named dispensary) is advertising for sale marijuana contrary to the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Narcotic Control Regulations (NCR). You are encouraging Canadians to engage in conduct that could also expose them to criminal liability.
Health Canada is requiring:
1. You immediately suspend all activities with controlled substances. If the(named dispensary) does not immediately cease all activities with controlled substances, we will contact, within 30 days of the date of this letter, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for enforcement action as they deem necessary, and
2. Submit a written statement indicating that the(named dispensary) will not conduct any activities with these substances without a valid licence. The original copy of your written response signed must be received in this Office bySeptember 21, 2015.
With the passage of Bill C-17 (Vanessa’s law) on November 6, 2014, there are increased fines and penalties for regulatory offences under the FDA, including a maximum penalty of $5,000,000 or 2 years in prison or both. Additionally, a person who knowingly makes a false or misleading statement to the Minister of Health or who knowingly or recklessly causes a serious risk of injury in contravening the Act or its regulations could face a higher fine or up to five years in jail, at the discretion of the court.
The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) define advertisement, as does the FDA and the NCR, to include any representation by any means whatever for the purpose of promoting directly or indirectly the sale or disposal of a drug in the case of the FDA, or a narcotic with respect to the MMPR and NCR.
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) prohibits any person from engaging in activities such as production, provision, sale (including offering for sale, import, export, transport, delivering of controlled substances unless authorized under its Regulations).
In addition, in accordance with subsection 12(1)(a) of the MMPR, a licensed producer may possess, produce, sell, provide, ship, deliver, transport and destroy marijuana, including viable seeds. Therefore, you must apply to be a licensed producer to be authorized under these regulations to conduct the above-mentioned activities with marijuana.
Office of Medical Cannabis
Featured image of V-CBC from Canlio.com