John “The Engineer” Turmel brought Ontario residents Robert Neron and John Dupuis before a federal court last April 13, and convinced a judge that Health Canada had been stalling too long in processing their applications for medical cannabis. The judge gave Health Canada 30 days to process the applications, which had been sitting on their desks for months (CC#32, Med-pot Madness in Canada).
Before the 30 days were up, three more people ? fed up with long waits for their medical pot exemptions ? joined Turmel’s group of protesters. With Turmel’s help, Denise Boidoine, severely injured in a car accident, Nicole Massicotte, a cancer survivor with crippling arthritis, and Donald Appleby, who suffers from a terminal illness all had a judge tell Health Canada to fast track their applications. Health Canada complied, and within 30 days had turned down every single one.
Undaunted, Turmel went back to court on May 31. “The judge was appalled,” says Turmel, and by June 31, his decision was published in the federal court archives. He granted a judicial review of Health Canada’s decisions in every case. The reasons for denial given so far are frail.
“Health Canada told Dupuis that he should get psychiatric counseling for stab wounds to the lung and liver before trying marijuana,” said Turmel. “When the judge heard that he ruled that it was absurd.”
Another exciting development came when, a single day after the judge’s decision to review all five cases, Health Canada granted Appleby ? arguably the sickest of the five ? an exemption.
“One other reason Appleby might have gotten his exemption with less fight,” said Turmel, “is that his MP, Belanger, wrote a letter to the Health Minister, Liberal to Liberal, saying ‘It looks like you are putting up barriers to these people, and that looks bad?'”
Health Canada was given 10 days to respond with affidavits explaining its decisions in the cases of the other four applicants.
Turmel, who isn’t a lawyer, is working successfully on other med-pot cases as well. He filed a motion on behalf of Marc Paquette, who already has a medical exemption, asking the courts to up the limit on the number of plants Paquette is allowed to grow. So far, med-pot exemptees are only allowed seven, and only three can be flowering. Within a few weeks of filing the motion, Health Canada conceded and handed Paquette an exemption for 11 plants in any stage of growth.
Turmel plans to examine Jody Gomber in court ? she’s the Health Canada bureaucrat responsible for decisions in all of these cases. Turnel wants to question her on how she can overrule doctors’ medical recommendations when she herself doesn’t have an MD. He also plans to ask her how patients are supposed to get marijuana when they are too sick to grow it. Under current Health Canada regs, explained Turmel, they aren’t allowed to keep any surplus on hand.