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Medical pot users get court reprieve as judge rules those with licenses can still access medicine after April 1
Jason Roberts and many people he knows in Osoyoos who have been issued licenses to grow their own medical marijuana are breathing a collective sign of relief.
Roberts, not his real name, admits he didn’t know what he was going to do after April 1 when new federal regulations relating to the purchase and use of medical marijuana were scheduled to go into effect.
That all changed last Friday when Federal Court judge Michael Manson granted a last-minute reprieve for medical marijuana users as he granted an injunction allowing those who possess a personal production license to grow medical marijuana to continue for now, pending the outcome of a trial to be held at a later date.
That trial, which is not expected to be before the courts for at least one year, is expected to focus on the fact the proposed changes to medical marijuana laws would violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
B.C. lawyer John Conroy successfully argued on behalf of a large group of medical marijuana patients, who asked for a temporary injunction to preserve the status quo until a constitutional challenge of the new system can be heard in court.
The federal Conservative government announced last year it would be overhauling the current system, which it says has too many problems, including unsafe grow operations, infiltration by organized crime and license holders selling additional medical marijuana for profit on the black market.
Roberts, 30, who runs his own business in Osoyoos, said he and many people he knows who also have personal production licenses are very relieved the injunction has been granted.
“I know a lot of people in Osoyoos who have medical licenses like I have and a lot of them were really worried about what they were going to do after April 1,” he said. “I’m personally not into the politics of all this, but I believe the system as it is works pretty well for most people and I don’t know why they want to change things so much.
“This gives a reprieve for a lot of people who were really worried and we’ll just have to see what happens down the road.”
Roberts said he fills his prescription for medical marijuana about once a month.
While he occasionally smokes pot to relieve his chronic pain from severe arthritis, he makes most of the medical marijuana he purchases into a balm he spreads over his skin.
“I turn it into a rub, similar to massage cream, and it works sort of like A-535,” he said. “It works really well and it really cuts down on my arthritic pain.”
Instead of issuing personal licenses to grow your own medical marijuana or have an approved grower grow it for license holders, the federal legislation being proposed would see all medical marijuana in Canada grown by large-scale commercial grow operations.
The commercial growers would be responsible not only for growing all of the medical marijuana in the country, but also for developing different strains and distributing it to those granted licenses to obtain medical marijuana.
Roberts said the biggest concern among most people he knows with licenses to grow their own medical marijuana is that costs will skyrocket under the proposed legislation.
“My biggest concern is the costs are going to get out of hand,” he said. “Not only do they have to grow it, but they have to distribute it to your door and I think the costs could be prohibitive.
“I also don’t like the fact that you have to be there when they drop it off. This is marijuana we’re talking about and it’s not like they can just leave it at your door. I run a business and I don’t know when I’m going to be home. I see a lot of problems with what they’re proposing.”
Roberts believes the long-term solution is to legalize marijuana in Canada and have the federal government tax and license the product like they do alcohol and tobacco.
“Pot causes a lot less problems (in society) than alcohol does,” he said. “Even most cops really don’t care if they catch someone smoking a joint. If the government controlled everything, the system could really work well.”
The court injunction means those with authorization to possess medical marijuana will be able to possess up to 150 grams.
Without the injunction, patients were being informed by letter that they would have to destroy all of their plants by April 1 and get rid of their current stash and to send notification to Health Canada by April 30 stating they had stopped production and destroyed their plants or law enforcement would be notified.
Amanda Stewart, the owner of the Valley Hemp Company in Penticton and an outspoken advocate in favour of liberalizing Canada’s marijuana laws, said she was thrilled the court injunction was granted.
“This is very good news and not really something I was expecting,” she said. “I think there will still be some uncertainty and concern for those with licenses down the road, but at least they will get a reprieve and won’t have to worry about where they will get their medicine as I know a lot of people were really panicking with April 1 just around the corner.”
Stewart worked tirelessly for Sensible B.C. last summer in that organization’s attempts to decriminalize marijuana.
She also believes the time has come to legalize marijuana in Canada.
“I really think society could handle marijuana being regulated under the same legislative rules and regulations that apply to alcohol and tobacco,” she said. “The government could tax it, control it and benefit from it and people who smoke pot wouldn’t have to walk around in fear worrying about being arrested.”
Conroy is a hero in the eyes of a lot of very sick people who need their medical marijuana to eliminate chronic pain and suffering, she said.
“He’s been trying to raise roughly $100,000 to take this court challenge to the next level and I don’t think he’ll have any trouble now after doing a bang up job and getting this injunction,” she said.
There are roughly 4,000 residents who live between Osoyoos and Peachland who have medical marijuana licenses and they will be very relieved they won’t have to worry about where they were going to access their medicine after April 1, she said.
The federal Conservatives will have no choice but to scrap their plans for large-scale commercial grow operations if Conroy is successful in his charter application he will be presenting in court in the next few months, said Stewart.