Health Canada is Far Behind on Medical Marijuana Licences

A call to Health Canada earlier this week, asking why the federal agency is so far behind in renewing the licences of those they permit to grow medicinal marijuana, has me scratching my head.

My call came as the result of a conversation I had with Cedar’s David Hodgkinson, who was charged with illegal cultivation after his medicinal marijuana grow-op was raided by the RCMP last week.

Hodgkinson claims his licence to grow the pot from Health Canada expired in August, even though he applied for the renewal eights weeks before it expired.

The reasons for that particular raid are still not clear and the RCMP were holding their cards close to their chests as of Tuesday. But the official from Health Canada, who asked not to be named, made it quite clear to me that once a licence to produce medical marijuana expires, there’s no grace period and growers are operating illegally if they don’t shut down their operations immediately.

She said the rules still apply, even though Health Canada acknowledges that a “sharp rise” in applications to grow medicinal marijuana has led to a backlog in processing new applications and renewing old ones.

My suggestion that Health Canada appears to be allowing people who have taken the time to follow the rules around growing medicinal pot to face criminal prosecution due to the inadequacies and bureaucracy of her agency seemed to fall on deaf ears.

All I got was a typical bureaucratic response that Health Canada was “working hard to improve its efficiencies.”

No matter what people’s views are on marijuana, whether the controversial herb is the devil’s weed that should be banished from the face of the planet or that it’s nature’s miracle cure, there’s no denying that Health Canada is slipping up on this issue.

After all, medical authorities and even the federal government (at least Paul Martin’s government) has acknowledged marijuana has medical benefits for those suffering with such chronic conditions as AIDS, hepatitis, ALS and cancer and allow doctors to prescribe it.

Ottawa awarded a contract to Prairie Plant Systems to cultivate medical marijuana in 2000 in Flin Flon, Man., to supply those who have permission to use the drug. But those who were looking to the operation with high hopes to help deal with their medical conditions legally ended up facing long waits if their pot arrived at all, and many claimed the pot they received from Flin Flon was too weak to help them.

That’s why Health Canada decided to allow people with medical conditions that can be helped by pot to apply to grow their own, albeit under very tight conditions and restrictions.

I suspect the new and negligent attitude towards medicinal pot by the federal government is a reflection of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s views on the herb.

After all, it was his government that recently introduced legislation to implement mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana.

– Article from The Nanaimo Daily News.

Cops quiet on details of medicinal pot bust

by The Nanaimo Daily News

Nanaimo RCMP are still not releasing details on their raid last Friday of a medicinal marijuana operation in Cedar that had an expired licence from Health Canada.

But Const. Gary O’Brien said the RCMP were justified in carrying out the raid on the pot operation at David Hodgkinson’s residence, and will release more details at a later date.

“We don’t just target these types of operations without a good reason,” O’Brien said Tuesday.

“I don’t think that would be moral or in the spirit of the law.”

Hodgkinson has been growing medicinal marijuana in his house for about a year under a licence to cultivate the controversial herb from Health Canada.

Hodgkinson was licensed to grow up to 49 pot plants, but he said his licence expired in August, despite the fact that he applied for its renewal eight weeks before its expiry date, as stipulated by Health Canada.

While not referring specifically to Hodgkinson’s case, Health Canada claimed it has been backlogged with applications for new licences to grow medicinal pot and renewals of old licences that have slowed the application process.

Karl Anderson, executive director of the Canadian Safe Cannabis Society and a licensed medicinal marijuana grower, said a similar situation happened to him last year at his home in Kamloops.

“My licence was valid at the time, but the police raided my operation anyway,” he said.

“I was never charged and my equipment was returned but much of it was damaged beyond repair. I find these cases to be utterly disgraceful.”

– Article from The Nanaimo Daily News.