Health Canada's War on Medical Marijuana Patients
CANNABIS CULTURE - Virtually all Canadians know that the primary duty of a Ministry of Health, whether it is provincial or federal, is to ensure that patients receive the health care that they need. When dealing with medical cannabis patients, Canada's federal health ministry seems to have totally forgotten what its duty is.
Instead of supporting patients, Health Canada blocks access to their medicine, violates their privacy, exposes them to legal and criminal sanctions, and treats them as enemies. At the same time as the world – including the USA – exposes the fallacy of mandatory minimum sentences, our federal government views it as a viable option to deal with cannabis law-breakers.
In the past year, Health Canada's war on patients has escalated. First, the ministry announced new regulations for medical cannabis (MMPR) which, if they are not stopped, will shut down all personal production and caregiver assisted production of our medicine. Instead, all patients will be forced to obtain their medicine from a "licensed producer" or LP, at a drastically increased cost.
By Health Canada's own estimate, the cost will increase from $5.00 per gram to $8.80 per gram – going up by nearly 400%. That amounts to $5,000.00 per year for a patient who uses an average dosage; much more if a higher dosage is needed. In fact, current online LP's are advertising rates from $9-$14 per gram, well beyond the scope of affordability for most users, whom statistics show 70% of which are on low income pensions or income assistance.
Making matters worse, patients who depend on specific strains they may have invested many years in developing and growing, will no longer be able to obtain these strains, or are being asked to surrender these strains to an LP. Their health will suffer seriously as a result.
Finally, the regulations still make it illegal to use medical cannabis in any form other than smoked, thus abandoning all patients who cannot smoke, or whose conditions are treatable only by extracts such as edibles, topicals, juices, tinctures, cookies and other infused food items.
In the fall of 2013, Health Canada attacked patients again by sending out an identified mass mailing to all 40,000 registered medical cannabis patients in Canada. This action breached patient confidentiality and privacy, exposing all patients to physical and financial dangers.
To seek damages from Health Canada for your privacy breach, please register with Branch MacMaster and you could receive a settlement up to $20,000 per person based on past precedents, or more depending on extenuating circumstances.
In addition, the Coalition is asking members of the Class Action to please donate via a soon-to-be-established set of check boxes on Branch MacMaster's or cannabis lawyer John Conroy's website to donate 5/10/20% of their winnings to be irrevocably assigned to the trust account of John Conroy to fund the Constitutional challenge to save our licenses, maintain dosages prescribed by doctors, use extracts, etc.
Class Action lawsuits reacting to Health Canada's breach of patient confidentiality have also been filed across Canada, as mentioned above. At least three major law firms have already filed these actions and formed a consortium with Branch MacMaster, seeking damages to compensate patients for the breach of privacy and for the financial and physical risks that resulted from it. Some patients have already been exposed to criminal activity or have lost their jobs. The Coalition Against Repeal is supporting all of these lawsuits, as well as the action against the new regulations MMPR via the Constitutional challenge.
Patients are fighting back through legal action. The MMAR Coalition Against Repeal is supporting a Constitutional challenge against the regulatory changes filed by John Conroy Q.C., one of Canada's top Cannabis/Constitutional lawyers. The lawsuit argues that the new regulations fail to satisfy Health Canada's constitutional obligation to ensure that patients have reasonable access to an adequate supply of medical cannabis. Recently, the Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed that there is a constitutional right, under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to reasonable access to medical cannabis when approved by a doctor.
Canadian courts have determined that previous versions of Health Canada's medical cannabis regulations violated Section 7 in various ways. An earlier limitation allowing production for no more than one person was found to be too restrictive, as was a rule permitting no more than 3 licenses at one site. The new proposed regulations are even more restrictive; they would abolish the right to produce for oneself completely, unless one is a "licensed producer". The Coalition's position is that the shutdown of "personal and designated person" production licenses, creates an entirely unreasonable barrier to access.
Impact statements received by the Coalition clearly show that many patients cannot afford the inflated costs, fear the production of their medicine by others outside of their control and have developed and maintained particular strains of medicine that work for them. They fear others will not be able to produce herbal medicine at the quality they have developed.
Consequently, the new regulations will not only cause an unreasonable cost increase; they will also make it far more difficult for patients to obtain unique and specialized strains that are often the only effective treatments for their conditions. In addition, personal producers and designated producers who have invested significant money and effort in cultivation facilities, equipment, nutrients and security, in order to produce their own cannabis at a reasonable cost, will no longer be able to do so. The cancellation of these licenses will mean the total loss of this investment.
Patients can fight to protect themselves from Health Canada's actions by supporting and participating in these legal actions. The lawsuits that deal with the privacy breach do not require funding, because damages are expected to defray the cost. The court challenge against the new regulations, however, is expected to require between $200,000 and $300,000 – and this action is considerably more important in the long run.
For full details about how to support the fight against the new regulations, visit the Coalition's web site at MMARCoalitionAgainstRepeal.com. To participate in that lawsuit, patients can send an impact statement to the Coalition, or to JohnConroy.com. An impact statement should stick to facts, and it should clearly say how the new rules will affect the patient's financial situation and health.
A court date has been proposed for the first week of February 2014 to seek an injunction in federal court to maintain the status quo until we take this matter to trial. The injunction means the MMAR will run business as usual until this matter is settled at trial. We hope to preserve our production licenses – check our website for updates on this matter.
This article written on behalf of the MMAR Coalition against Repeal.