National Post (Latest Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - I an Mul­grew

VAN­COU­VER• The Fed­eral Court has struck down leg­is­la­tion bar­ring pa­tients from grow­ing their own med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

In a sting­ing in­dict­ment, Jus­tice Michael Phe­lan said the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment’s law was ar­bi­trary, over­broad and un­con­sti­tu­tional.

“The ac­cess re­stric­tions did not prove to re­duce risk to health and safety or to im­prove ac­cess to mar­i­juana — the pur­ported ob­jec­tives of the reg­u­la­tion,” wrote Phe­lan in a rul­ing re­leased Wed­nes­day.

“In sum, the law goes too far and in­ter­feres with some con­duct that bears no con­nec­tion to its ob­jec­tives.”

He gave the fed­eral govern­ment six months to fix the leg­is­la­tion, sug­gest­ing a much more re­laxed ap­proach that al­lowed per­sonal grow­ing op­er­a­tions and dis­pen­saries.

Phe­lan also ex­tended an in­junc­tion al­low­ing peo­ple who held li­cences to con­tinue to grow their own mar­i­juana.

The con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge was launched by four Bri­tish Columbia res­i­dents who ar­gued that the 2013 Mar­i­juana for Med­i­cal Pur­poses Reg­u­la­tions blocked their ac­cess to af­ford­able medicine.

“Their lives have been ad­versely im­pacted by the im­po­si­tion of the rel­a­tively new regime to con­trol the use of mar­i­juana for med­i­cal pur­poses,” Phe­lan wrote. “I agree that the plain­tiffs have ... demon­strated that cannabis can be pro­duced safely and se­curely with lim­ited risk to public safety and con­sis­tently with the pro­mo­tion of public health.”

Kirk Tou­saw, a Van­cou­ver Is­land lawyer in the case, was over­joyed. “His his­toric de­ci­sion rep­re­sents a nearly com­plete vic­tory for pa­tients us­ing med­i­cal cannabis in Canada,” he said.

“I call upon the prime min­is­ter to act much more swiftly and im­me­di­ately end all crim­i­nal sanc­tions against med­i­cal cannabis pa­tients and their providers. In ad­di­tion, the jus­tice min­is­ter should im­me­di­ately dis­miss all pend­ing crim­i­nal cases in­volv­ing med­i­cal cannabis pro­duc­ers and dis­pen­saries.”

Health Min­is­ter Jane Philpott said it was too early to say if the govern­ment would ap­peal. She said she will be work­ing with the Jus­tice Depart­ment to en­sure there’s an ap­pro­pri­ate reg­u­la­tory regime in place.

The Lib­eral govern­ment has com­mit­ted to le­gal­iz­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana, but has said lit­tle about any plans for med­i­cal mar­i­juana since be­ing elected last Oc­to­ber.

Philpott said recre­ational and med­i­cal cannabis should be treated as “two sep­a­rate is­sues.”

“We’re go­ing to have to com­pletely re­view the reg­u­la­tions around ac­cess to med­i­cal mar­i­juana,” she told re­porters in Ot­tawa.

Un­der the Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment’s 2013 rules only au­tho­rized li­censed cor­po­ra­tions were al­lowed to grow and sell med­i­cal cannabis.

The per­sonal and des­ig­nated- grower li­cences per­mit­ted un­der the old rules were elim­i­nated in favour of a cor­po­rate, courier-and-mailorder de­liv­ery sys­tem.

But many grow­ers and pa­tients across the coun­try chal­lenged the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of those reg­u­la­tions, say­ing they vi­o­lated lib­erty and se­cu­rity rights.

There are an es­ti­mated 38,000 or so li­censed med­i­cal pot users across the coun­try, about 17,000 who re­put­edly buy from the new firms.

Medic­i­nal mar­i­juana pro­duc­tion has grown into a multi-mil­lion dol­lar in­dus­try, and the court rul­ing caused stock prices to dip. Canopy Growth Corp. share prices on the on the TSX Ven­ture Ex­change had dropped about 7 per cent as of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

Mark Zekulin, pres­i­dent of Tweed Mar­i­juana Inc., said it would be “heart­break­ing” if the fed­eral govern­ment shut down the li­censed-pro­ducer sys­tem en­tirely. But he doesn’t ex­pect that will hap­pen.

“We’ve built a world-class fa­cil­ity ... and are pro­duc­ing very high qual­ity prod­uct that you can’t get any­where else,” he said. “I don’t think six months from now it’s just go­ing to get shut­tered and peo­ple are go­ing to be out of jobs.”

The Cannabis Pa­tients As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada, which rep­re­sents peo­ple who held li­cences to grow mar­i­juana un­der the old regime, ap­plauded the de­ci­sion.

“This is about putting the rights of the pa­tient at the cen­tre of public pol­icy de­ci­sion-mak­ing,” ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor John Lorenz said.

But Ro­nan Levy of Cana­dian Cannabis Clin­ics, a network of On­tario med­i­cal mar­i­juana clin­ics, said al­low­ing peo­ple to grow their own mar­i­juana might make doc­tors more wary of pre­scrib­ing it.

“Can you imag­ine what it would be like if you went to a doc­tor, they pre­scribe an­tibi­otics, and you got to go home and mix up your own an­tibi­otics? I don’t think doc­tors are go­ing to be com­fort­able with that,” he said.

The judge con­cluded the med­i­cal ben­e­fits of the plant were largely undis­puted.

“Many ‘ex­pert’ wit­nesses ( on both sides) were so im­bued with a be­lief for or against mar­i­juana — al­most a re­li­gious fer­vour — that the court had to ap­proach such ev­i­dence with a sig­nif­i­cant de­gree of cau­tion and skep­ti­cism,” Phe­lan said.

4. Fed­eral Court rules in favour

of pa­tients grow­ing own

2. En­trepreneurs open dis­pen­saries across the coun­try

5. Stocks of mar­i­juana pro­duc­ers slump af­ter

court rul­ing

3. Shop­pers Drug Mart lob­bies to sell medic­i­nal pot

1. Lib­er­als pledge to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana and reg­u­late its sale


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