FDA Looks to Canada for Marijuana Regulation Advice


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking interest in how to effectively regulate marijuana.

The agency is cohosting a conference later this month that will include a panel examining Canada’s system of legal medical cannabis, according to a notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday.

The session, led by Chris Rose, director of operations for Canadian government’s Office of Medical Cannabis, “will provide an overview of current regulatory framework for the regulation of marijuana for medical purposes in Canada and include information on the licensing process, compliance and enforcement and market statistics,” the conference’s website says.

The news comes in the wake of reports the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will soon to act on a marijuana rescheduling recommendation it received from FDA. It is not yet publicly known whether the health agency recommended a change in the drug’s classification or if it weighed in for keeping marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive category, which is supposed to be reserved for drugs with no medical value. DEA is expected to rule by the end of this month.

The fact that FDA is taking a close look at how the Canadian federal government legally regulates medical cannabis could be a sign that the Obama administration is preparing to announce a big change in policy soon. But it might also just be the agency doing its due diligence to begin preparing for changes that seem inevitable at some point in the near- to mid-term future.

“It’s possible that this is part of the administration’s slow progress on the issue generally,” Mike Liszewski of Americans for Safe Access told Marijuana.com in an interview. “It makes sense to examine what our allies have done. This could be simply in anticipation that the status quo is not going to be permanent, and that the FDA doesn’t want to be light years behind the curve. If the FDA added this panel to the agenda because they think rescheduling of cannabis is imminent, I’d like to think they would be doing more than this one panel, but I can only speculate on that.”

The FDA session, part of the annual educational conference of the Association of Food and Drug Officials, has been anticipated since at least last December, according to an earlier program draft, which lists it under a slightly different title.

FDA sent its rescheduling recommendation to DEA sometime prior to September 30 of last year, according to Justice Department letter to a member of Congress, as Marijuana.com first reported in December.

Patients in Canada can currently obtain medical cannabis through several licensed producers. There are also a number of unlicensed dispensaries throughout the country, which cities have recently stepped up efforts to crack down on.

Meanwhile, the country is moving to more broadly legalize marijuana for all adults, fulfilling a campaign pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Officials have announced that they will soon impanel a task force to formulate regulations, with the government expected to introduce legalization legislation by next spring.

Photo Courtesy of Wollertz.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


  1. Yes, don’t we all.
    I must add, I do so appreciate Tom Angell and the work he is doing to provide safe and legal access to cannabis for everyone. Thank you, Tom. Blessings to you & yours ~*

  2. Isn’t the Canadian medical marijuana system eternally in court? It seems it has all the effectiveness of a New Jersey or Illinois program. Why look to them?

  3. Canada gets it. I have personal experience in having access to great bud from several compassion societies in Canada. What you read in mainstream news is not how it actually works in Canada. The so called crackdowns are few and far between. Canada seems very pro personal and human rights… With no real restrictions on the right to medicate or even the right to get high.

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