There has been a great amount of confusion within several medical governing bodies, regarding the ability for certain health care practitioners to diagnose and/or prescribe medical cannabis.
To be clear, the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations states:
128. (1) In addition to being authorized to possess dried marihuana in accordance with section 3, a health care practitioner may perform the following activities in regard to a person who is under their professional treatment:
(a) transfer or administer dried marihuana; or
(b) provide a medical document.
Furthermore, a “health care practitioner” is defined by the government as:
“a medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner.”
For more clear definitions, see “New Classes of Practitioners Regulations” (http://www.laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2012-230/)
We also found an excellent article that details the contradictory information that both the government and licensing bodies are giving the public. Please read below.
We hope this has helped to shed some light on the situation.
While it’s been suggested that Canada’s new rules for access to medicinal marijuana – the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) – make medicine more expensive for those who had previously grown their own supply, there seemed to be one unqualified benefit to the new system: the ability of nurse practitioners to grant access to cannabis produced by Health Canada-licensed providers.
For those who couldn’t access an MD (or, at least, one willing to discuss cannabis as a treatment option), or who lived in rural regions where medical care is offered mostly by NPs, the new rules appeared to offer welcome relief. “The MMPR will simplify the process of obtaining medical marijuana permits, by allowing nurse practitioners to prescribe the drug, in addition to doctors,” reported the National Post on February 28, one month before the legislation would take effect.
Strange, then, that nursing organizations didn’t want to talk about the new powers their members were reportedly granted. After the Ontario Nurses’ Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario both declined comment on how nurse practitioners had prepared for the changes, and what benefits (if any) they were seeing for nurses and patients, it seemed there had been a miscommunication somewhere along the line.
The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions confirmed that none of their member organizations had had any contact with federal or provincial health bodies – which is strange, given how active nursing unions tend to be around new developments that affect, for better or worse, the working environment.
Soon after, a CP story had been filed during Ontario’s recent election: Kathleen Wynne, now recently re-elected as Premier, had then promised to “expand the powers of nurses and nurse practitioners to include more tasks currently carried out only by doctors[, including] prescribing a wide range of medications.” But, the report noted in a brief aside, “prescriptions for narcotic drugs would still be handled only by physicians.”
Not only were nurse practitioners in at least one province not able to authorize marijuana use, but at least one province’s Premier is dead set against the idea.
In fact, according to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), the body that regulates Ontario nurses, NPs’ ability to grant access to any controlled substance authorized by Health Canada is still in flux. Marijuana is actually the one clear exception: it’s a definite no-go.
“While the College is working to recommend changes to the provincial regulations to permit NPs to prescribe controlled substances, marijuana is not an approved prescription drug in Canada,” said the CNO’s Bill Clarke by email. “As a regulator, our role is to put standards in place to protect the public. The availability of evidence to support guidelines for safe prescribing will influence any future discussions and decisions regarding NP prescribing.”