A crackdown on compassion clubs in Quebec has backfired, according to some doctors and medical marijuana users.
Last week, police in Montreal and Quebec City arrested 35 people in raids that shut down five of the clubs, which sell marijuana to people who use the drug for medicinal purposes.
Canada offers only one strain of medical marijuana, and the only legal way to purchase it is through Health Canada.
Some users say the process is complicated and the wait is often long. As a result, some are now turning to the black market.
Montrealer Janet McDougal said for the past decade, she has relied on a compassion club located on Montreal’s St-Laurent Boulevard for marijuana to help treat her multiple sclerosis.
The club was closed last week and when her current supply of pot runs out, she will have to return to a cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs that leave her feeling like “a zombie,” she said.
It will take several months to get approval for a licence from Health Canada to start using the drug legally, she said.
The marijuana helped relieve her pain to the point that she no longer has to use a wheelchair, McDougal said. It has also restored her appetite.
“It is like I have a new lease on life,” she said. “I feel like I’m coming out of a coma.”
McDougal admits she tried to get some marijuana through a contact she met on the street.
“I gave them the money, they left, and maybe there was about 25 dollars worth of hay — catnip inside,” she said.
Some clubs offered drug without prescription
Police said the raids were launched because some clients of the clubs were receiving marijuana without proper federal authorization, which constitutes illegal drug trafficking.
In Montreal, city officials had said they had received several complaints from residents about a newly opened club in the Lachine district.
Operators of that club were willing to accept a sworn declaration made to a commissioner of oaths in lieu of a doctor’s prescription.
McDougal said she “detests” what was being done at the Lachine club. The club she used had far more stringent measures in place and would only accept doctors’ prescriptions, she said.
“I can’t even go in there with a friend, that is how secure it is,” she said.
Health Canada only legal source
Dr. Mark Ware, associate medical director of the McGill University Health Centre Pain Clinic, said McDougal is one of hundreds of patients affected by the raids.
“My first real gut reaction was, my God, there are going to be a lot of patients suffering as a result of this,” he said.
Ware said he counsels all of his patients that the only legal means to get medical marijuana is through Health Canada.
But some of his patients find that their symptoms respond better to certain strains of the drug, he said.
The clubs also provide patients with convenient service and information they don’t obtain from Health Canada, Ware said.
The closure of the compassion clubs will leave many patients with a window of time in which they will have to wait for a legal supply of the drug, he said.
“They will be finding other methods of access of cannabis if they can’t go without it until the Health Canada program kicks in,” he said. “I hope that Health Canada will go back and rethink this program of having a single supply and a single strain [of the drug].”
– Article from CBC News.