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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Canadian Crossroads 2014: Health Canada’s Medical Marijuana Program Transition - by Chelsea Shaker



    As many of you may know, the tables have turned for the medical marijuana program in Canada. This past June, the Canadian government passed a new regulation for access to marijuana for patients. The new Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) was implemented and became effective April 1st,   to “protect public safety” and making sure Canadians have access to marijuana from “secure and sanitary conditions”. This process streamlines the medical marijuana program strictly to commercial growers. Personal production and production from a designated caregiver is now illegal. Commercial growers are now to be licensed by Health Canada. Former caregivers who grew medical marijuana must now destroy all forms of medical marijuana and dispose of all equipment. 

      Naturally, Canadian caregivers that have devoted their time, finances, and lifestyles to cultivating medical marijuana for patients are not at all pleased with this shift in government decisions. Of course, most feel it is an enormous slap in the face to their successful efforts in providing safe, effective marijuana to relieve registered patients in Canada. A federal court judge in Vancouver is taking a stand on behalf of those effected and was granted a last-minute reprieve on March 21st for medical users who need to grow their own. The reprieve allows those with a personal production license to continue to grow their medical marijuana until a court issues a final decision..
     British Columbia Attorney John Conroy, who is supporting local patients and organizations opposing these new regulations, is arguing the change, claiming it is a violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Conroy says under section seven of the Charter, everyone who is medically approved to use cannabis has a right to reasonable access to it as a medicine for their health. Conroy and his clients claim the new MMPR will cause patients who cannot afford black market or licensed producer prices to have to choose between their liberty (being arrested and charged with production of marijuana) and their health (accessing the medicine that works best for their health). 
    In early March, an article by the Canadian Press claimed local police departments in the BC area were not intending on cracking down on registered patients who grow their marijuana, as explained will be the case by Health Canada. Perhaps it is because the economy and environment of the medical marijuana community has been very much decided and settled quite comfortably, especially within the BC area. 
    In the meantime, it is not determined what patients will do while they wait for their medicine. The approved, licensed commercial grows still have to wait for final approval, finish their streamlining process, ADD patients to their ticket, before they can cultivate the amount of medical marijuana needed to sustain the demands across the country. So far, there are 12 approved, licensed facilities in Canada.
    Most of these facilities will not be up and running with sufficient amounts of marijuana until mid to late summer. Until then, thousands are hoping for the opportunity to express their concerns through the courts via the reprieve for patient’s rights to grow and cultivate their medicine. Where will they have access to their medicine in the meantime? That is not Health Canada’s problem, apparently. Every patient wishing to take advantage of the new program must first sign up as a patient under one of the twelve available companies offering services. 
    Canadian patients do not have access to other forms of marijuana besides the dried flower for smoking and occasional vaporizing. Tweed, Inc. has vaporizing accessories available on their website, although the laws of the MMPR do not allow extracts, tinctures, oils, juices, edibles, or other forms of marijuana. 
    To further the debacle, in the fall of 2013, Health Canada issued an identifiable mass email to 40,000 patients registered in the program in regards to their statuses and issuance on newly illegal extracts. A Class Action lawsuit against Health Canada has been filed on behalf of the MMAR Coalition for Repeal member Jason Wilcox, claiming the mass email was a violation of patient confidentiality and privacy. To seek damages made by Health Canada, patients are asked to register with Branch MacMaster law firm, who is presenting the cases. The Coalition for Repeal is asking members of the Class Action to donate their winnings in the amount of 5/10/20% to the John Conroy trust, which will fund the Constitutional challenge to save individuals rights to grow licenses, include extracts into the revised medical marijuana program, and various pro-patient/caregiver issues that are being disregarded by the government and Health Canada.

1 comment:

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