Canadian feds threaten medical cannabis crackdown

Posted on October 5th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

CanadaVancouver's BC Compassion Club Society is waiting for clarification from Canada's federal government following a threat to call in the RCMP unless it closes its doors—along with 12 other area cannabis dispensaries. John Conroy,  the Compassion Club's attorney, told local News 1130 that he wrote back to Health Canada after they received the threatening letter last month. Conroy raised the specter of the Mounties confiscating herbal medicine, leaving wheelchair-bound patients no option but to return to more debilitating painkillers they'd been taking before cannabis became available. "A lot of these folks used to be on all kinds of prescribed opiates," he said. "Many of them are now not on any opiates and doing much better." Vancouver recently became the first Canadian city to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, which remain officially barred under federal law. The city now has about 80 such operations, with the Compassion Club the flagship outfit.

Conroy, of the Vancouver-based Cannabis Rights Coalition, fears a replay of the spate of raids after the Compassion Club first opened 20 years ago. "There [were] patients on the news complaining about the police taking away their medicine," he recalled. He especially wants specifics on federal claims that the non-profit club is advertizing. "It's a bit puzzling what they have come up with and why they seem to have focused on the ones that are the best, the most compliant," he said.

Conroy has also brought federal litigation challenging Canada's restrictive new medical marijuana regulations. In June 2013, Ottawa overturned its Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR), revoking the right of patients to grow their own cannabis or designate a grower. The new system, the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), mandates that patients purchase mail-order dried cannabis from large-scale operations known as Licensed Producers. Conroy's case, Allard vs. Her Majesty the Queen, won an injunction halting the ban on patient cultivation days before the planned switch to the new regs on April 1, 2014. But that case—brought on behalf of Neil Allard, a neuro-immune disorder sufferer in Abbotsford, BC—only impacted the 45,000 patients under the former MMAR system, who will be able to keep growing their own. This July, Justice Michael L. Phelan of the Federal Court of Canada turned down a bid to modify the injunction to overturn such restrictions as the ban on changing the location of personal cultivation. Conroy is still waiting on a final decision in the case, which he hopes will overturn the MMPR altogether. (Cannabis in Canada, July 16; Cannabis Culture, April 11, 2014)

The case in some ways a replay of the landmark Regina v. Parker (later renamed Parker v. Her Majesty the Queen), concerning Toronto-area epilepsy sufferer Terrance Parker, which forced Canada's federal government to launch the medical marijuana program in 2000. The Ontario Court of Justice found that the Narcotics Control Act violated Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms by denying Parker's right to medicine. (Leaf Science, Feb. 22, 2014) But the new decision in Allard closes the space that opened for medical home-growers under Parker.

Meanwhile, a new kind of medical marijuana clinic just opened in Windsor, Ont. The Canadian Cannabis Clinics facility won't actually be providing patients with any cannabis. It will just specialize in determining if a patient is eligible for medical marijuana. Medical marijuana has been legal since 2001, but in 2014, the process changed on how to obtain it. Although in last year's reform Health Canada eliminted the need for a federal license to use medical marijuana, allowing patients to instead receive a doctor's recommendation, this has actually slowed down the process. Canadian Cannabis Clinics co-director Ronan Levy told the CBC that most doctors aren't comfortable in writing prescriptions for cannabis and don't know enough about it.

Windsor physician Dr. Darren Cargill added that it is a "chicken and the egg situation," in which practitioners won't feel comfortable prescribing medical marijuana without evidence to point to—while that evidence will be hard to generate if it is never prescribed.

Cross-post to High Times

Photo by PhotoPhreak



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