A wonderful selection of lemon kush, photo via Flickr.
This morning in Vancouver, a federal judge granted an injunction in favour of Canada’s medical marijuana patients, who have revolted against a Health Canada decree that would mandate all medical weed users to purchase their dank chronic from newly-built, federally regulated grow-ops; while outlawing their ability to grow the magic plant in the comfort of their own home. This is a huge victory for cannabis proponents across the country, two of whom shared their thoughts with me earlier this week in an article I wrote about the forthcoming Health Canada change, though it’s unclear how long the injunction will be able to hold off the legal grow-op sea change.
This massive shift in the way medical marijuana is produced and sold in Canada was halted thanks to a suit spearheaded by John Conroy, a lawyer based in Abbotsford, BC. John has argued that the Health Canada changes are unconstitutional, adding: "If the patient can't afford the medicine at the prices under the program that's being produced, then they're placed in a position where they have to choose between their liberty and their health.”
While there is clearly a metric fucktonne of cash to be made from the regulation of medical marijuana, the federal government’s stance on their centralization of chronic production hinges on a public safety defense. Basically they’re arguing that having a nation of private grow-ops will lead to more burglaries and robberies (which do, of course, happen in real life) while also leading to other safety issues like “fire hazards and mould.”
Obviously no one would want to live in the vicinity of a biker-run grow-op where ten, 1000 watt hydroponic lights are daisy chained into a single electrical outlet, but clearly there are thousands of patients who are simply trying to grow one or two plants in their own home, just so they can keep the costs of their much-needed medication as low as possible.
When you have so many patients who suffer from chronic pain or debilitating disease, shouldn’t the government be helping to provide the most immediate access to medicine possible, while still helping to ensure the overall safety and sanitation of the marijuana? A plant allowance per patient, for example, should be able to strike that balance. As it stands, however, Health Canada’s plan is to have all of the medical marijuana patients who are currently registered in their database destroy all of their purple kush (or OG kush, or Jack Herer) plants, so they can be filtered into the more highly regulated, corporate grow-op system. So it’s no wonder that people are upset.
I reached out to Jodie Emery, one of Canada's foremost marijuana advocates who is also Marc Emery's wife. In an email, she told me: "I applaud this decision, just as I applaud all court decisions ruling in favour of peaceful citizens versus cruel government policies. Patients have the right to access medical marijuana, but the Harper Conservatives have spent years trying every possibly way to dismantle the medical marijuana program and make every plant across Canada illegal. Their irrational and obsessive hatred towards cannabis, and their disdain for medical marijuana patients, will surely continue, but it's encouraging when our judges and courts protect our country's most sick and vulnerable people."
Not only will the corporate grow system establish a monopoly that medical marijuana patients will be forced to patronize, these grows will be limited when it comes to the products they can legally manufacture and distribute. While I’m sure most grow houses would love to sell a variety of dried buds, waxes, oils, and other extracts, the Canadian government is only allowing the buds to be sold. This leaves patients, like Sita von Windheim, who grows her own marijuana to make cannabis juice to treat her chronic back pain, in a position where she can no longer legally obtain (let alone grow) her own medicine.
One only needs to spend a few short minutes discussing these proposed federal changes with marijuana patients or, even, reading the comment threads of basically any Canadian news source reporting on this issue to realize that public opinion is far, far away from Health Canada in this instance. While today’s news is a reassuring victory for both common sense and medical marijuana patients (as Matt Mernagh told me today, “this is great news for people in the old program”) clearly the battle for accessible cannabis medicine is far from over in Canada.