Professional Regulation of Cannabis Issues

Authors: Eleanor Olszewski, Q.C., Sharon Au

With the legalization of cannabis in Canada, professional regulators in the health-care industry can expect to see a rise in cannabis-related issues in disciplinary cases.

Recently, the Ontario Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (“ONHPARB”) dealt with a complaint involving a physician charging for educational courses on medical cannabis and refusing to prescribe cannabis to one particular patient. In B.S. v. V.A., 2018 CanLII 83106, the complainant alleged that the member physician refused to prescribe medical cannabis unless the complainant took an educational course offered by the physician’s clinic; the cost of taking the course was $60.

The Discipline Committee dismissed the complaint, finding that it was reasonable and appropriate for the physician to have refused to provide a prescription. The complainant had tested positive for cocaine, which, according to the clinic’s guidelines, prevented the physician from prescribing cannabis to the complainant.

On appeal to the ONHPARB, the complainant alleged that the medical system permitted physicians, such as the member, to operate a “money grabbing” medical cannabis scheme; specifically, he alleged that physicians were profiting from patients by withholding medical cannabis prescriptions until the patient paid extra money. The complainant also alleged that the Discipline Committee did not do a full investigation into this issue.

The ONHPARB found that neither it nor the Discipline Committee had jurisdiction to address alleged “systemic issues regarding the administration of health care in Ontario,” rather, they could only deal with complaints as they related to an individual member. The ONHPARB found that the Discipline Committee completed an adequate investigation into the conduct of the member and that its conclusion with respect to the member’s conduct was reasonable.

This is an example of the type of case that professional regulators may expect to see on an increasing basis.

With the legalization of cannabis, the public may look to professional regulators to regulate all issues involving cannabis.

B.S. v. V.A. is a reminder that it is not the responsibility of the professional regulator to regulate the use of medical cannabis; rather, the role of the professional regulator is to ensure that its members follow the standards of the profession, regardless of whether cannabis is involved.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.