New federal regulations allowing designated medical marijuana producers to grow cannabis for two approved users of marijuana — up from one — are a “slap in the face,” advocates said Tuesday.
The changes, to be announced Wednesday, come nearly 16 months after a Federal Court judge struck down part of the old regulations as unconstitutional and unnecessarily restrictive.
Alison Myrden, who has been a vocal advocate for users of marijuana for medical purposes, said the changes are an “outrage” and run contrary to the court’s decision.
“None of us will settle for this,” Ms. Myrden said. “This is so disingenuous of our government, because we are sick and dying people. We’ll have to go back to court again.”
The old regulations restricted designated producers to growing cannabis for no more than a single approved user.
Federal Court Justice Barry Strayer ruled in January, 2008, that the one-to-one restriction is “arbitrary,” not “rationally related to legitimate state interests” and violates the principles of fundamental justice.
Instead of amending its regulations to permit larger-scale medical producers, Health Canada appealed the decision.
The Federal Court of Appeal ruled against the government last fall and the government then asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal. The top court declined to do so, in a decision released on April 23.
It is estimated that more than 400,000 people in Canada use marijuana for medical reasons, according to evidence presented in a case in British Columbia.
However, less than 20% of the nearly 3,000 people approved to smoke marijuana for medical reasons access it from the government-approved supplier, because of complaints about the quality.
A spokesman for Health Canada said the new regulations are currently in force.
New Democrat MP Libby Davies said Tuesday the changes were “pretty pathetic” and don’t come close to addressing the needs of authorized users.
“The federal government has always done everything it could not to make the medical marijuana program work properly,” Davies said. “They try to get away with as little as they can to satisfy what has been legally required and this is just a further indication of that.”
Eric Nash, who grows organic marijuana on Vancouver Island through his company, Island Harvest, said he has had more than 300 requests from approved marijuana users.
“It’s just crazy that the federal government and Health Canada will continue to put patients onto the street for their medicine and license all these suppliers yet only allow them to supply one or two people,” Nash said.
There are currently more than 2,000 people allowed to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes — 1,715 hold licences to grow for themselves and 302 are designated to grow for other approved users.
Philippe Lucas, a Victoria city councillor and founder of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, said increasing the number of patients a grower could supply would reduce the number of production facilities.
“The whole basis of this challenge was that the restrictions as they were, with the one-to-one ratio, barred people from having the ability to benefit from the economies of scale by growing in larger scale production facilities,” Lucas said. “If they were to allow a 10-to-one ratio or an unlimited ratio then what we would see in Canada would be a few major producers that would be producing for the needs of hundreds of medical cannabis patients.”
– Article from The National Post on May 26, 2009.