Federal judge rules patients can grow own marijuana

Conservative government's medical marijuana regulations declared unconstitutional

The Liberal government has six months to come up with new rules for home-grown medicinal cannabis.

People are forced to the black market because they have such limited access anywhere else.

—Chelsea Fisher

On Wednesday, a federal court judge struck down The Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations introduced by the Conservative government in 2013, which restricted the rights of medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis.

“The access restrictions did not prove to reduce risk to health and safety or to improve access to marihuana — the purported objectives of the regulation,” Justice Michael Phelan wrote. 

The straight dope
on medical cannabis

There are 500,000 users of medical cannabis in Canada over 25 (Health Canada).

Around 28,000 people held licences under older regime and are covered by the court injunction that allows them to grow their own cannabis (extended after ruling).

Dried marijuana not currently an approved drug or medicine in Canada.

Health care practitioner required to set out daily amount required for patients.

Patients allowed maximum of 30 times the amount identified by health care practitioner or 150 grams, whichever is less.

Illegal for producers to provide cannabis through storefront or compassion club

Total of 29 producers licensed by the federal government, including 16 in Ontario

Evidence from animal experiments and human trials that cannabis is effective for relief of nausea, vomiting, certain types of pain, and stimulation of appetite (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse)

Lack of research examining risks of marijuana dependence with long-term supervised medical use (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse)

Source: The Canadian Press

Four British Columbia residents launched the constitutional challenge, arguing the previous Conservative legislation violated their charter rights.

According to the plaintiff lead counsel John Conroy, the legislation denied patients access to the cannabis, leaving some with no choice but to break the law.

“People are forced to the black market because they have such limited access anywhere else,” said Chelsea Fisher, medical marijuana patient.

Fisher has to obtain cannabis from the black market, where the prices are as high as 20 dollars per gram. For her needs, that’s over 1000 dollars each month. If she could grow them at home, it would cost her only 25 cents per gram.

This ruling continues an injunction for around 28,000 Canadians who were already licensed to produce their own cannabis. It may open the door for new patients in six months’ time.

“It gives you complete control of what kind of medicine you are consuming. You can choose to go organic, you can choose the type of strain you want to grow that fits what you need,” said growth technician Vincent Vuong.

Government lawyers argued growing cannabis at home posed security, fire and health risks for patients and neighbours.

“I agree that the plaintiffs have, on a balance of probabilities, demonstrated that cannabis can be produced safely and securely with limited risk to public safety and consistently with the promotion of public health,” Phelan wrote.