Privacy Considerations in Setting up Tweed’s Medical Marijuana Distribution Business

After April 1st, Tweed Inc. will be among the first businesses to sell medical marijuana in Canada.  The new legislative framework that will be in effect on that date allows businesses that have received licenses from Health Canada to grow and sell medical marijuana.  Tweed has started production activities in its Smiths Falls facility that was previously home to a Hershey chocolate factory.  Over the last couple of months, I had the opportunity to work with Tweed to develop its privacy policy and practices to ensure compliance with the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) and applicable privacy legislation.  The following is a summary of some of the privacy considerations we looked at in establishing Tweed’s medical marijuana distribution business.

The Application Process

The MMPR require applicants registering to become clients of licensed medical marijuana producers to provide certain personal information, including their name, date of birth and gender.  The MMPR also require information about the residences of applicants.  For example, if an applicant does not live in a private residence, the applicant must disclose the type of residence that he or she lives in (i.e. a shelter).

Because an individual is only permitted to use medical marijuana if he or she has a “Medical Document”, a producer seeking to sell medical marijuana must be able to contact the applicant’s health care practitioner to verify the applicant’s prescription.  Before this can be done, the applicant must complete a consent form granting the distributor permission to contact the applicant’s health care practitioner to inquire about the prescription.

Purchasing Medical Marijuana

Once applicants become registered clients, they can purchase medical marijuana from their distributors.  Distributors are required to maintain records pertaining to purchases in order to comply with regulatory requirements.  In certain circumstances, the MMPR requires licensed distributors to disclose information about their clients to the police.  In the interest of transparency, Tweed’s privacy policy outlines the legal obligations regarding such disclosure and the steps that Tweed will take prior to responding to such law enforcement requests.  For example, before Tweed will disclose information about a client, the police officer making the request must provide Tweed with the full name, date of birth and gender of the individual being investigated.

The Delivery Stage

The delivery stage is very important from a privacy perspective.  Health Canada itself learned this lesson last November when it sent notices to 40,000 individuals using medical marijuana in envelopes showing the patients’ names and referencing the Medical Marijuana Access Program.  As expected the disclosure of such personal information has resulted in the initiation of a class action lawsuit against Health Canada.

In order to maintain the privacy of its clients, Tweed will be using a secure delivery service.  The external packaging of the deliveries will not contain Tweed’s name, its famous address (1 Hershey Drive), or information disclosing the medical marijuana contents of the package.

Transparency and Accountability      

As far as personal information goes, health information ranks among the most sensitive in nature as it reveals the most intimate details of individuals personal lives.  Accordingly, it is particularly important for businesses handling such information to operate in a transparent and accountable manner.  More information about Tweed’s privacy practices and the contact information of Tweed’s Chief Privacy Officer can be found on Tweed’s website.

LaBarge Weinstein has a team of professionals well versed in the requirements of Canadian privacy laws.  We routinely work with clients to develop privacy policies and practices specific to their industry and their own uses of personal information.  Please contact one of our lawyers if you have questions about the collection, use and protection of personal information in your own business.

Written by Diana M. Cooper, Student-at-Law; Blog:; Twitter: @Diana_M_Cooper; LinkedIn: Diana Marina Cooper

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