Cannabis in Canada

Few people truly understand the medical marijuana situation in this country. That is the way it was intended to be. The federal medical exemption program has been flawed right from the start, with only a small percentage of applicants actually receiving exemptions, and a process which is obscenely underfunded and unnecessarily complicated. Most in the general public think that everything is fine because we “have” medical marijuana in this country. They think the legislative battle has been won and this is a closed issue.

I have come to know the flaws of the MMAR first-hand, as I suffer from terrible migraine headaches that can only be helped by cannabis. However that is a topic for another blog post.

Here is a great summary of the medical marijuana situation by one of Canada’s most dedicated activists, Russell Barth:

Sick suggestion

By Russell Barth, The TimesJune 4, 2010


Re: Stop pot shop, says MP, TIMES, June 1

“Conservative MP Randy Kamp believes medicinal marijuana users who are getting their pot from a non-profit dispensary that just opened up in Maple Ridge should be charged for breaking the law.”

Only a Tory would say that sick people should be criminally charged for using their medicine. It is what they call “compassion.”

He says that “They have a legal mechanism to get it through Health Canada or to designate someone to grow it for them so it’s certainly not that they’re without options to get it for medical purposes. I think that’s the route they should go,” said Kamp.

Actually, we don’t. In fact, there is much about this medical pot program that the government refuses to talk about, and it has been an ongoing fiasco for over a decade.

The prohibition of marijuana died in the courts in 1997 and ’99. The medical program was put in place to prop up the dead law in a “Weekend At Bernie’s” kind of way — to convince the public that pot was still illegal even though the law was just struck down.

The Health Canada program itself has been ruled unconstitutional by at least four court rulings.

The program was put in place to prop up a prohibition that was ruled unconstitutional.

The Health Canada program is so scandalously understaffed that there is now a 24- to 30-week wait for applications to be processed (whereas it only takes a few weeks to get a gun). Simple renewals take 16 to 20 weeks.

The rules on plant and storage limits are arbitrary and do not reflect the realities of pot cultivation, making them difficult — and sometime impossible — to comply with.

Police often ignore the fact someone has a permit to grow, and tear out the plants and damage equipment regardless of the legality. People have spent days in jail with no medicine for the simple crime of having a legal pot grow.

The pot grown by the government is weak, ground up, is full of stem, seed, leaf, and chemicals. It doesn’t even look like pot, it looks like the stuff you sprinkle on the floor to soak up vomit. It is also $5 per gram, which is an outrage because it is sub-standard, and it has already been paid for by taxpayers.

The federal regulations “allow” the permit holder to possess and use marijuana, but provincial laws forbid the simple possession of cannabis in a variety of locations, like busses, cars, restaurants, bars, and just about everywhere else, which places the permit holders in a legal conundrum.

If a grower loses a crop to bugs or fungus, which can happen even in the cleanest facilities, patients can be left with little to no medicine for months at a time. If they try to buy the government pot as a “back up” until their own garden produces something useful, they must relinquish their grow permits. There is no back up, there is no middle ground, and this can leave patients with no legal way to obtain medicine for months at a stretch.

It should also be noted that since the regulations were never enacted as law — technically — participants in the program are under no legal obligation to adhere to them, nor do the police or government have any real legal jurisdiction to enforce them.

Canadians are all living in a grey area where marijuana is not yet legal, but no longer illegal.

Russell Barth,

Nepean, Ont.

We are living in contentious times. The raids are going to continue, and will certainly increase if the Harper Conservatives get a majority government. We know what they are going to do. The responsibility falls to us. We need more of this. We need to open the eyes of our neighbours to the hell that medical marijuana patients face in this country.



  1. Medicinal Mike on

    I agree that there should be a mention of the despensaries. Talking about the senate bill is more difficult since to some people they make it sound reasonable, but they do not see the danger we face of having a Bush-like style of filling up jails with small fry while the big dogs keep howling free. I want my taxes to go down, not up. More jails means more taxes with LESS safety.

  2. UncleBob100 on

    You have a valid point. But, just as a side note… Doctors have prescribed Booze as medicine. I’ve read that during the prohibition of alcohol in the usa…patients could have it prescribed by their doc, and dispensed at their local pharmacy.

  3. Vince on

    I think the worst thing to happen to the fight for legalization is the designation “medical marijuana.” It’s going in the wrong direction.

    I know it “seems” like more acceptance, but in fact it is less acceptance for recreation use and will create even more of a crackdown on recreational use. Now people will claim that anything other than prescribed medical use is an abuse of the drug. Would people use insulin for recreational purposes? Would doctors prescribe beer for an ailment?

    And, of course, it will become just another aspect of big pharm – who will be worse than cops ever were. I think the push for medical marijuana was people getting played and takes the focus away from where it should be on straight up legalization.

  4. Arthur on

    Looking forward to your posts on migraine.

  5. Ted Smith on

    Sorry if I came on strong but with all of the recent raids on the clubs, we need all the support we can get. Your ommissions were impossible to ignore.

  6. Anonymous on

    “The federal regulations “allow” the permit holder to possess and use marijuana, but provincial laws forbid the simple possession of cannabis in a variety of locations, like busses, cars, restaurants, bars, and just about everywhere else, which places the permit holders in a legal conundrum.”
    Maybe it would be a reasonable accommodation for a permit holder to be allowed to sit at the back of the bus unless a white person wants the seat.

  7. Travis Erbacher on

    For sure. I agree with that. My main point was just to post the letter because I thought he did a particularly good job at something we need more of.

    Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it. I am going to post some writing of my own soon focusing on the point of view of a chronic migraine sufferer. The getting legal process is frustrating to be sure!

  8. Spanner McNeil on

    I didn’t really know of the inbetween situations that a Med Card user could find themselves in. To have to relinquish a grow permit in order to buy government marijuana is contemptuous nonsense. Very informative article by Russell really. It’s a great summary of a particular situation. There’s still a lot of mistaken impressions out there. Kudos to Travis.

  9. Ted Smith on

    Generating an emotional reaction by raising fears about the potential impact of a majority Canservative government is a good political strategy to get votes but it ignores the reality of S-10. Cannabis Culture has lead the fight against these laws, which is why it seems strange it was not mentioned at all in your blog.

    I am fully aware of what patients face. I sell cannabis products to about 3,200 sick people. Been doing that since you were 6. The public needs to learn about the medicinal uses of cannabis and how it is distributed to people suffering from chronic pain. That is why I think that an article titled “Cannabis In Canada” that is focused upon patients should include some information about the legal difficulties faced by medical dispensaries. Given that Russell’s letter was responding to a Conservative MP’s desire to shut down a new club, defending the existence of medical dispensaries should be just as important as attacking the MMAR.

  10. Travis Erbacher on

    I don’t doubt the importance of defeating s-10. However, the average person is much less likely to have an emotional reaction to the subject of mandatory minimums. The hell that patients are forced to endure is a subject that deserves attention as well. Few people really know the struggle that patients face.

    And it’s not like Cannabis Culture has neglected the fight against s-10.

  11. Anonymous on

    I agree, -one very small thing we can do to help the culture wars is stop with the Cheech & Chong/Dude Where’s My Car style pot jokes.

    Lots of people wrongly think pot is like a combination of LSD and alcohol.

    The profundity of pots effects send some people psychotic, but not because of brain damage… it’s the profundity itself which scares these sort of psychologically vulnerable people (people with socially conservative views).

    I feel that should be a talking point anyway: it is profundity and the ability to take people out of a psychological ‘comfort zone’, not brain damage, which gives pot its bad name around the world. The solution to this problem is education about the potential profundity and about the many medical benefits which make legalisation so worth it.

  12. Ted Smith on

    The final paragraph of this article fails to bring attention to S-10. We could help avoid a majority Conservative government by canvassing the streets about S-10, at the same time discussing the raids, etc.

    The article fails to mention medical dispensaries at all. Though Russell may have written his letter to address problems with Health Canada, the author should not claim to be providing a summary of medical cannabis issues without any mention of the clubs.