In August, the government of Canada reluctantly started selling medical pot to patients who qualified under their complex approval system.
As of early September, only six patients had qualified to receive the ground-up, freeze-dried herb. Health Canada officials said that 14 more applications were under review.
There are currently almost 1,000 people in Canada who have received a medical exemption to use their own homegrown marijuana. They are all eligible to apply for access to the federal stash, but most are reluctant because the feds require them to give up their licenses to grow for themselves or use marijuana from any other sources. Once you agree to use the federal buds you are legally cut off from all other herb.
Anne McLellan, Canada’s Minister of Health, told the media that she was only allowing the marijuana to be sold because recent court rulings in Ontario gave her no choice. She said that she would immediately end the program if her ministry wins its appeal, but a decision was not expected until late October.
Health Canada made their announcement six months to the day after Ontario Superior Court Justice Sidney Lederman declared that the Health Canada Medical Marijuana Access Regulations were unconstitutional because they provided only “the illusion of supply.”
Judge Lederman had pointed out that despite their permission to use and grow pot, there was no legal way for patients to actually get seeds or marijuana. He gave Health Canada six months to rectify the situation that “forces medically needy individuals to rely on black market marijuana.”
As they have done with every pro-cannabis court ruling so far, the feds waited until the last moment and then did their best to abide by the letter of the court ruling, while violating the spirit of the decision.
Exemptees vs Health Canada
This bureaucratic hostility towards med-pot patients is revealed in the experience of Marc Paquette, a 47-year-old Ontario med-pot exemptee who suffers from Hepatitis C. Paquette appeared before Ottawa’s Federal Court of Appeal on September 3, fighting with Health Canada over how they have forced him to constantly renew his exemption status.
Paquette received his first exemption in March 2000, and has since had to renew it 11 times.
“Why these people at Health Canada never gave us an exemption to last the rest of our suffering days was, and still is, a total mystery to me,” said Paquette, preparing for what was to be his 40th courtroom appearance in his effort to gain easy, legal access to medical pot.
The federal marijuana comes ground up and sealed in glossy, golden packages emblazoned with a red maple leaf. For qualifying patients, the herb is sent to their doctor for them to pick up.
Each 30-gram pack costs $150, plus provincial and federal sales tax.
The government’s ganja was grown by Prairie Plant Systems (PPS), as part of a $5.7 million, five-year contract with the federal government. PPS produced the herb in an abandoned mineshaft in Flin Flon, Manitoba.
In an interview last year, PPS founder Brent Zettl bragged to Cannabis Culture that his plants were grown in “highly controlled systems,” and that his product “would speak for itself” (CC#39, Miracle mineshaft marijuana).
Yet there are many questions about the quality of the federal pot supply. Patients have criticized it as “disgusting.”
Although the American government opposes Canada’s increasing acceptance of medical marijuana, the US feds actually supply a handful of patients with pre-rolled medical joints. They were forced to do this by a major court decision in 1976, but now they allow no new patients into the program, and so their number is dwindling. The US feds’ pot has also been criticized as being weak and low-quality.