Bioethics Blogs

Regulating Marijuana Medicine in Canada: New Challenges and Prospects for Meaningful Reform

Andrew Hathaway discusses the challenges surrounding the regulation of medical marijuana.


Earlier this summer Vancouver became the first city in Canada to regulate and license the sale of medical marijuana. The controversial bylaw will affect approximately 100 existing businesses, dozens of which are expected to be shuttered for failing to comply with the new regulatory framework. Under the new regulations, retailers of medical marijuana will be charged a license fee of $30,000 and shops will be prohibited from operating within 300 metres of community centres, schools, and other medical marijuana dispensaries. Nonprofit organizations, designated as compassion clubs, will pay a much reduced license fee of $1,000. But all licensed outlets will be fettered by restrictions against the sale of baked goods (e.g., pot cookies, brownies) and other edible concoctions that might appeal to children.

Predictably, the federal government has opposed the move to regulate the city’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry, which has long existed at the sufferance of police. In a strongly worded statement, Health Minister Rona Ambrose slammed the regulatory scheme for undermining the government’s position that marijuana is illegal and asserted the need for uniform enforcement of the law. Ambrose argued that the passing of the bylaw will facilitate increased marijuana use, addiction, and inevitably make the drug more readily available to children.

Equally predictably, proponents of the bylaw have defended it as being the most practical solution—designed precisely to protect children—in a context of expanding unregulated use. For others seeking formal recognition of the health benefits of the drug and to expand medical access to it, the onerous restrictions of the bylaw are excessive.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.