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Compassion Clubs and Medical Marijuana Clubs in Canada

The information below was compiled by the Canadian AIDS Society.

Compassion Clubs, Dispensaries and Cannabis Clubs in Canada

In Canada, there are clubs or dispensaries that provide a variety of strains of cannabis, as well as other cannabis products such as baked goods and other edibles, tinctures, oils, concentrates, capsules, and sprays, as well as organic* (not certified) cannabis.

These clubs are referred to as compassion clubs, cannabis clubs, or buyers’ clubs. They vary in size, organizational structure and the services they provide. Some clubs are very well established and are registered as not-for-profit societies.

It is important for you to know that the clubs are NOT LEGAL in Canada. Their status and their potential role in the distribution of medicinal cannabis are still being debated. They are NOT part of the federal medical cannabis program.

This is NOT a legal source of cannabis. The people who run clubs are usually quite knowledgeable about the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Some clubs have developed standards of operations by which they self-regulate, though at this time there are no uniform standards by which all clubs operate.

These clubs usually require membership, which you obtain by filling out a quick form to fill out and getting your doctor to sign it, or providing a letter from your doctor to confirm your diagnosis. There are not many clubs and providers in Canada. We are providing a list for your information.

Please visit the web site at <> for an updated list.

* A note on organic cannabis: Some of you may be seeking an organic source of cannabis. Currently there is no certified organic cannabis available to authorized persons in Canada. The government’s cannabis is gamma-irradiated for safety purposes, to ensure no harmful mould spores are present.

Under national standards for organic agriculture, irradiation is not permitted. Compassion clubs often offer organic cannabis as an available product, though this cannabis is not certified as organic.

There is one exception. Island Harvest in BC produces organic cannabis which is certified by the province of British Columbia. However due to Health Canada’s regulations, Island Harvest’s certified organic cannabis is only available to two authorized people, as restricted under the MMAR.
(*Island Harvest is not a compassion club or cannabis dispensary)

Health Canada's Position on Compassion Clubs

June 7, 2010
For Immediate Release - Health Canada

OTTAWA - Health Canada would like to provide information regarding the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) as they relate to organizations such as "compassion clubs" or "cannabis dispensaries".

Under the MMAR, Health Canada does not licence organizations such as "compassion clubs" or "cannabis dispensaries" to possess, produce, or distribute marihuana for medical purposes. Under the MMAR, only individuals can be authorized by Health Canada to possess and/or be licensed to produce marihuana for medical purposes. As well, Health Canada is the only organization that can legally supply marihuana seeds and dried marihuana for medical purposes to such individuals.

It has been reported that patients could purchase marihuana for medical purposes from compassion clubs provided they have documentation from Health Canada or a registered physician. This could mislead patients to believe that they are authorized to possess marihuana if they have a letter, or other documentation, from a physician, which is not accurate.

It is also incorrect that organizations such as compassion clubs or cannabis dispensaries are legally able to sell or provide marijuana to those who have authorization from Health Canada to possess marihuana for medical purposes.

The only way that individuals can be legally authorized to possess marihuana for medical purposes is to apply to Health Canada under the MMAR. This application includes a declaration of support from their medical practitioner. Once authorized, there are only three options for individuals to obtain a legal supply of dried marihuana:

1) access Health Canada's supply of dried marihuana;

2) obtain a license from Health Canada to produce for themselves;

or 3) obtain a license from Health Canada to designate someone to produce on their behalf.

Under the MMAR, holders of a production licence can produce marihuana for a maximum of two individuals who have authorizations from Health Canada to possess marihuana for medical purposes. In addition, the maximum number of production licences (either personal-use or designated-person) at one site is four.

Individuals who disregard the requirements of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and its regulations, or the terms and conditions of their authorization to possess and/or their licence to produce, could be subject to law enforcement measures.

Additionally, if compassion clubs operate outside of Canadian laws, this is an enforcement issue and falls under the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies. Under the MMAR, Health Canada is authorized to communicate information to Canadian police agencies, in the course of an investigation, that enables them to confirm whether a named individual or specified address is associated with an authorization to possess or licence to produce marihuana for medical purposes.

For information on the Marihuana Medical Access Program along with the roles and responsibilities of both authorized and licensed persons, please visit Health Canada's Fact Sheet on Medical Access To Marihuana. You may also contact the Marihuana Medical Access Division directly at:

Telephone: 1-866-337-7705
Facsimile: 613-952-2196
Teletypewriter: 1-800-267-1245 (Health Canada)




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