Cancer Patient Blames Health Canada Delays for Pot Charges

Robert Neron had been smoking marijuana legally for more than a decade when the OPP raided his home, took his plants and turned off his power.

The 45-year-old cancer patient had been waiting 10 months for Health Canada to renew his licence to use medical marijuana when his home was ransacked and cleared of his cannabis plants in March.

Neron lives in Kapuskasing, about six hours north of Sudbury, and temperatures dipped below -30C at the time.

“It was like living in the bush,” he said in Toronto on Wednesday, where he has been living with friends since the power went off in his house.

He faces charges for the possession, cultivation and production of cannabis resin, commonly used to make hash. Neron says the resin is more effective than regular marijuana for treating his symptoms.

The power remained off for a month, until Neron received a court order to have it turned back on.

“This was a death sentence for him,” said his lawyer, Ron Marzel, a prominent advocate for program reforms to give sick people access to medical cannabis.

“This is a sick person who has been licensed for 10 years.”

They were speaking to media in support of an Ontario Superior Court ruling that the federal medical marijuana program is unconstitutional because patients must resort to illegal means to obtain the drug.

Neron has long advocated for the reform of medical marijuana laws. In 1998, he was one of the first Canadians to apply for a licence for the drug. He was busted for possession two years later, but the charges were dropped when he was granted the federal licence.

Since then, Neron said, he has taken Health Canada to court nine times to get various restrictions lifted. He was also caught twice for using his licence to help sick people without the document get medical marijuana.

“They told me to never do it again, and I didn’t,” he said.

Marzel said his client’s licence renewal has been delayed by the bureaucratic process, not over concerns he was misusing the licence.

Upset by the delay, Neron asked the OPP in early March to charge Health Canada with criminal negligence for refusing to help someone in danger.

“They took me like I was a big joke,” he said.

When police called Health Canada to check his claims, Neron said they denied he was even an applicant. “The police turned around, got a search warrant and raided my house.”

A Health Canada spokesperson would not comment on the case due to privacy concerns. A government statement said the application process has been sped up and takes eight to 10 weeks.

– Original Article from The Toronto Star.

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