Ontario’s Burning Pot Controversy

Ontario’s highest court will review a landmark decision in November which deals with Canada’s troubled medical marijuana program and the legalization of the production and possession of pot.

Matthew Mernagh, a frail-looking St. Catharines man with myriad health problems, two months ago scored an enormous victory when Justice Donald Taliano ruled the marijuana program unconstitutional. The judge gave Ottawa until middle of this month to repair the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) or pot would be effectively legalized in Ontario.

Doctors’ “overwhelming refusal to participate in the medicinal marijuana program completely undermines the effectiveness of the program,” Taliano wrote in his ruling.

The mid-July deadline was recently extended when federal government lawyer Kevin Wilson successfully argued the need for the current pot laws and regulations to stay in place until Ontario’s highest court could hear the appeal, likely in November. In granting the deadline extension, Court of Appeal Justice Robert Blair noted:

“The practical effect of the decision if the suspension were permitted to expire on July 14 would be to legalize marijuana production in Ontario, if not across Canada.”

In an interview, Wilson said the regulations are not at fault, “it’s the decisions of the individual doctors.”

Toronto law professor Alan Young, who has fought some major marijuana court cases, described Mernagh’s case as a difficult one.

“It’s about the doctors, it’s not about the government,” he said. “There is no constitutional rights in having a doctor properly educated. We all knew that doctors would be reluctant.

“To what extent is the government complicit in the reluctance of doctors to participate. That’s the issue,” he added.

Mernagh’s lawyer Paul Lewin has told court there are about 400,000 Canadians using marijuana for “therapeutic purposes” — including people suffering from HIV, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

The number of licensed medical marijuana users is far lower than Lewin’s statistics. In the first 10 months of last year, Health Canada received 7,385 applications for medical pot licences and granted them to 4,650 people.

The federal government, meanwhile, has announced that medicinal marijuana users will be prohibited from growing their own weed and will have to obtain the drug from licensed, commercial producers under a new national marijuana supply program.

– Article from Toronto Sun.