Canada's march towards marijuana legalization, a priority of the newly elected Liberal government, just had what some proponents are calling a symbolic win in court.
A constitutional challenge to the 2013 Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), which prevented people who obtained medical marijuana licenses after 2013 from growing their own pot at home and instead asked them to buy weed through the mail from a small number of licensed distributors, was upheld by a British Columbia judge today.
Thanks to the successful challenge, raised by four BC residents, people with medical marijuana licenses may legally be able to grow their own pot at home again.
The ruling will be suspended for six months in order to give the Canadian government time to legislate on medical marijuana if it chooses. In the meantime, an injunction allowing people with pre-2013 licenses to grow their own pot at home will be upheld. Judge Michael Phelan emphasized in his decision that the ruling is not about marijuana legalization directly, but rather lawful access to medical marijuana by legitimate patients.
The specific section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms at issue in the case states that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."
"The Court has concluded that the plaintiffs' liberty and security interest are engaged by the access restrictions imposed by the MMPR," the decision states, "and that the access restrictions have not been proven to be in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."
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The case, raised by Nanaimo, BC resident Neil Allard and three others and heard by Judge Phelan in 2015, positioned the growing ban as an attack on Canadian citizens' rights. The stakes were high: if Judge Phelan were to have decided against Allard and his colleagues, not only would medical pot smokers still have to buy through the mail, but people with pre-2013 licenses would have their right to grow revoked.
Allard told CBC News that, if the constitutional challenge were struck down, he could "pretty much guarantee that there's going to be an appeal."
John Conroy, the plaintiffs' counsel, reportedly argued that without the ability to grow their own pot, otherwise law abiding medical marijuana smokers were being forced into a costly and dangerous black market for the drug.
In the absence of new legislation around medical marijuana, but in anticipation of legalization by the Liberals, the grey market for marijuana has found a booming market in Canada.