Are Canada’s Pot Rules Going to Pot?

My pals — the ones who use medical marijuana — are worried that Health Canada is about to make their lives a lot more difficult. At least, that’s what Erin said when she asked me to come over and meet her friends Jim and Stu.

You remember Erin: she broke her back in a car accident when she was in her teens; she healed, slowly and painfully, and then she got clipped by a car and broke her back again.

Her pain level is constant, verging on the unbearable. For her, marijuana is more efficient, and far less harmful, than any other pain reliever.

As for Stu, his knee is seriously mashed up, and Jim is HIV positive, and here’s the background to their worry:

At the moment, Health Canada licenses some people to use marijuana; it also licenses people like Erin to grow for their own use, and to grow for designated others; some people order their marijuana from a federally-licensed farm in Manitoba; those who are not licensed may turn to a compassion club.

A compassion club?

It is a “don’t ask-don’t tell” dispensary, organized on a members-only basis; mostly, the cops turn a blind eye.

Recently, Health Canada has been having consultations around the country; the agency wants to get out of the business of mailing medical marijuana to licensed users; it wants users to deal directly with a handful of new, federally-licensed marijuana farms; and, my friends say, the feds will stop licensing individuals to grow their own.

Just so you know, Erin smokes what she grows; she also makes marijuana butter and oil for use in cooking and baking at home. Stu is licensed to use; he has applied for a license to grow; it doesn’t look like he’ll succeed. He said, “I make gingersnap cookies. I also make oils and tinctures.”

And Jim, who is HIV positive, has a grower, at least for now. He said, “I make chocolate bars, cookies, squares, caramels; the trick is to hide the flavour.”

Why do people prefer to grow their own?

Stu said, “I’ve had marijuana from compassion clubs. I tested it for pesticides and found traces of floramite, and of AVID — you have to have a commercial license to use AVID.”

AVID kills spider mites. The larger concern is that AVID may interfere with some of the drugs in the AIDS cocktail.

Why else do licensed users prefer to grow their own, or to buy from someone licensed? Erin said, “There are more than 200 strains of marijuana; mine works for me. If it’s taken away…”

She raised another concern. “A lot of women out there are put in the position of trading sex for meds — they can’t grow for themselves, and along comes a guy…”

All three worry that Health Canada has been consulting with the compassion clubs, but not with them. Stu said, “Why are they talking with people they’ve branded as criminals, but not with the people they call patients?”

Okay, but if the system does need reform, then what should Health Canada do?

Erin said, “Research; they should inform the doctors about the use of marijuana for anxiety, depression, anorexia, post-traumatic stress.”

Stu said, “It should insist that those who have production licenses submit papers to show that the electrical inspections are done.”

And Jim said, “I recommend that Health Canada work on customer service. I’m in a six-month loop of calling; it’s hard, when there are times you’re not well enough to call.” And finally, Stu noted, “Some people are going to end up in jail if they change the law.”

Hmm. Omnibus crime bill, mandatory minimums, and new jails in the works.

Just coincidence?

– Article originally from The Toronto Star.