Medical Cannabis

As of October 17, 2018, cannabis was made legal in Canada for both recreational and medicinal purposes, and governed under the Cannabis Act.  Part 14 of the Cannabis Regulations specifically addresses access to cannabis for medical purposes and replaces the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (made under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act), which is no longer in force.

What is the nurses’ authority with respect to medical cannabis?

The Cannabis Regulations provides nurses with the legal authority to:

  • Distribute or sell to a patient a cannabis product[1], other than cannabis plants or cannabis seeds, upon receipt of a medical document or written order.

In the Cannabis Act, “distribute” is generally defined as “administering, giving, transferring, transporting, sending, delivering, providing or otherwise making available in any manner, whether directly or indirectly, and offering to distribute.” The Act also specifies that distribution differs depending on the practice setting. For example, in public settings such as in the community or home care, nurses providing assistance may not transport, send or deliver cannabis.

It is important to note that each employer can make specific determinations about access to medical cannabis. Nurses are only authorized to distribute or sell medical cannabis if employer policy permits and supports this activity. Nurses are accountable for understanding employer policies that relate to the distribution or sale of medical cannabis.

According to the Cannabis Regulations, nurses are authorized to distribute medical cannabis in a hospital, but not send the product to the patient[2].

What should nurses consider when providing nursing care to patients who are prescribed medical cannabis?

Nurses must consider whether they have the knowledge, skill and judgment and the authority required to care for a patient taking medical cannabis. These accountabilities are outlined within the Decisions about Procedures and Authority practice standard.

It is important for nurses to understand relevant employer policy related to medical cannabis. If no policies exist, nurses are encouraged to advocate for and work with their employer to develop policies that support safe patient care.

When distributing any medication to patients, nurses are accountable for adhering to the CNO’s Medication practice standard. Nurses must ensure they can distribute the medication safely, competently and manage the potential outcomes of administering it. CNO’s Medication decision tool can assist nurses when faced with decisions about their medication practices.

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[1] The Cannabis Regulations defines “cannabis product”as cannabis of certain classes of cannabis, including dried cannabis, cannabis oil, fresh cannabis, cannabis plants and cannabis plant seeds — or a cannabis accessory if that accessory contains such cannabis — after it has been packaged and labelled for sale to a consumer at the retail level, but does not include a drug containing cannabis.
[2] As per the Cannabis Act, “distribute” is defined as “administering, giving, transferring, transporting, sending, delivering, providing or otherwise making available in any manner, whether directly or indirectly, and offering to distribute.”

 

Page last reviewed June 07, 2022