Some BC residents are fighting for the right to grow their own medical marijuana rather than relying on large-scale commercial suppliers.

Some BC residents are fighting for the right to grow their own medical marijuana rather than relying on large-scale commercial suppliers.

Shawn Davey’s unsteady gait — supported by a five-foot-tall, rough-hewn walking stick — comes as the result of a motor-vehicle crash 15 years ago. It left him with numbness on one side of his body, constant pain and a brain injury that has affected his memory.After spending thousands on prescription medication, Davey says the only thing that has helped is marijuana. “I was supposed to be in 24/7 care for the rest of my life,” says Davey, 38. “Now I drive. I live on my own. It’s all due to marijuana.”He smokes a joint as soon as he opens his eyes in the morning, then uses a vapourizer for the rest of the day. He bakes pot-laced cookies, which he says helps him sleep. He also makes a topical lotion from pot and grape seed oil. In all, Davey figures he ingests marijuana every half hour of his waking day, totalling 25 grams, the amount authorized for him by Health Canada.Davey is among a group of British Columbia residents challenging the federal government’s 2013 reforms to the rules covering cultivation of medicinal marijuana on constitutional grounds. They’re demanding that the government reinstate their right to grow their own pot instead of being forced to buy from large-scale commercial suppliers. A three-week hearing began Feb. 23 in Vancouver before Judge Michael Phelan, with Davey as its first witness.Their lawyer, John Conroy, is arguing the regulations restrict users’ choice, push up their costs and limit how much they can possess. They’re forced to choose between their health and their freedom if they believe it’s best to keep growing their own.But Justice Department lawyer Jan Brongers, acting for the government, contends the new rules were necessary to bring order to the largely unmonitored medicinal marijuana sector, seen by some as rife with illicit sales and safety risks.Davey, who lives on a disability pension and annuity payments from his accident settlement, told the court the marijuana he and a friend grow in a secure outbuilding on his rented property is superior to the product he used to get from a designated grower. It’s also much cheaper. Even at a rock-bottom price of $5 a gram, Davey estimated buying commercially grown cannabis would cost him close to $4000 a month at his current consumption rate, eating up most of his income.More than that, though, his bad experiences with poor-quality pot make him distrust outside suppliers. “I trust what I grow, that’s it,” he told Brongers. “This is my body. I don’t want to let anyone else deal with it.”Launched a year ago, the challenge has thrown a wrench into the Conservative government’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), which shift growth and sale of medical marijuana to licensed fully commercial operations from a mix of for-profit and grow-your-own cultivation. The new rules also limit the amount a user can legally possess to 150 grams, down from the previous limit of a 30-day supply.The deadline for the change was Apr. 1, 2014, but in late March a federal judge granted a temporary injunction allowing Canadians with medical marijuana permits to keep their current arrangements until a decision from this hearing comes down in late summer or fall.The Supreme Court of Canada is also set to hear arguments next month in a related case involving the MMPR’s limitation of possession of medical marijuana to dried cannabis only. Plaintiff Owen Smith, also from BC, argues that unduly restricts those who get better results with cannabis oil, cookies and other forms. (Conroy told CMAJ he suggested postponing the Federal Court hearing until the high court had ruled in Smith, but the government rejected the idea.)Speaking before Judge Phelan on Feb. 23, Conroy said the MMPR violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protecting life, liberty and security of the person. He said the onus is on the government to show the new rules constitute a reasonable limitation of those rights under Section 1 of the charter. “The government bears the burden in justifying any intrusions on a person’s liberty and security of the person,” he said.Brongers said the government will show changes to the 15-year-old regime governing access to medical marijuana were necessary to address “exponential growth” in demand. The original rules were designed for a relatively small number of users, he said.The number of licensed growers had mushroomed from fewer than 100 in 2001 to some 37 000 in January 2014, according to the government’s statement of defence. The difficulty in monitoring so many grow-ops — whether in private homes, outdoor plots or industrial spaces — was a cause for concern among police, fire, health and safety authorities.Police suspected, often with reason, that some growers were exceeding their licensed quota and selling the surplus on the street. Brongers said the presence of grow-ops also raised the spectre of home invasions to steal the drugs, not to mention the risk of toxic mould, noxious fumes and electrical hazards. And there is no constitutional right to access unlimited amounts of pot from any source, he said.There’s wide agreement on the need for some form of regulation, said Brongers. The government will call witnesses to show Canada’s approach is in line with other countries that permit medical marijuana use, including the United States, Israel and the Netherlands.Source:

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