CANNABIS CULTURE – The Beyond Prohibition Foundation, a federal non-profit that advocates for sensible marijuana policy, is calling Health Canada’s proposed changes to the federal medical marijuana program “too little, too late.”
“We applaud the belated recognition that the government’s medical marijuana program needs substantial reform,” said Kirk Tousaw, the Foundation’s Executive Director and a lawyer that is responsible for groundbreaking Charter challenges in the area of access to medical marijuana. “This program has failed patients, producers and distributors of medical cannabis for a decade and needed to scrapped. Unfortunately, the new proposals miss the mark and will fail to address many of the existing issues with the program.”
Health Canada’s plan includes physician approval of patient use followed by supply from an unspecified number of licensed producer/distributors. Physicians would no longer need to identify particular symptoms and conditions and the requirement that some patients consult a specialist would be eliminated. It is unclear how many producers would be licensed and what criteria would apply. It is also unclear how a lawful consumer would prove that to law enforcement authorities.
“Eliminating the specialist requirement is a necessary step,” said Jacob Hunter, the Foundation’s Policy Director, “and cutting out the government’s multi-month processing time for licenses is also a welcome change. That said, it is unconscionable for the government to take away a person’s right to produce for themselves or to have a caregiver producer for them. Many patients require a particular strain that these private companies simply will not have.”
The changes come as the Ontario Court of Appeal is about to decide whether the government can have additional time to fix deficiencies identified in the program or risk seeing the prohibition on possession and production of marijuana be removed for everyone, not just medical consumers.
The public has been given until July 31, 2011 to comment on the government’s proposal.
The government suggests the changes are not because of the pending litigation but, rather, are a response to concerns raised by police and certain municipalities about the existing scheme.
“Let’s be clear,” Tousaw said, “the idea that there are huge problems arising from legal marijuana producers is nonsense. There are only a few thousand legal producers in this country whereas estimates suggest that 250,000 people in BC alone work in the illicit marijuana industry. The real problems with the program continue to be lack of physician participation and the continual stigmatization and marginalization of medical cannabis consumers. And while some of these proposals have merit, the government needs to recognize the fundamental problem with any medical marijuana system is that marijuana itself remains prohibited. Until we regulate the entire industry, we will continue to see the problems created by prohibition.”
– From The Beyond Prohibition Foundation. Visit their activist portal, WhyProhibition.ca