B.C. medical marijuana case wraps up in Federal Court

B.C. medical marijuana case wraps up in Federal Court

Medical marijuana users’ fight to continue growing their own plants is now in the hands of a Federal Court judge after lawyers delivered their final arguments in Vancouver late last week.New rules that force patients to purchase medical marijuana from licensed commercial growers ensure they are supplied with safe, good quality marijuana that is grown by industry producers who are subject to stringent standards and government oversight, federal lawyers told the court.But lawyers for the plaintiffs argued the new rules are overly restrictive and by making marijuana unaffordable for their clients — all B.C. patients — the regulations infringe their rights to liberty and security under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.In court documents filed last week, the plaintiffs quoted Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose as having told media in late April: “Marijuana is not medicine.”For Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, that statement “epitomizes the biases” behind the government’s regulatory scheme.“They don’t think it’s medicine. They just think that all of these patients are overproducing and selling to the black market, they’re not really using the medicine they say they need, their doctors are being bamboozled into signing prescriptions with high dosages. And it’s all this really cynical viewpoint that does not understand and accept that marijuana’s used medicinally,” Tousaw said in an interview.In their final written submission, federal lawyers stated that although all experts who spoke during the case agreed marijuana has some medicinal value for certain individuals, it is not a “miracle drug.”“Some of the Plaintiffs’ unbridled enthusiasm for marijuana appears to far surpass the available scientific evidence of its efficacy,” read the defendant’s memorandum of fact and law.Under the new regulations, patients cannot possess more than the lesser of either 30 times their daily dose or 150 grams — a limit that fails to take into account patient need, according to the plaintiffs. And while the cost to produce marijuana under the old system ranged from $0.50 to $2 per gram, the estimated cost under the new rules is about $5 to $12 per gram, they argued.At just $5 per gram, the cost of 60-year-old plaintiff and Nanaimo resident Neil Allard’s medicine under the new rules would be as much as $7,200 per month, the lawyers told the court. He would also not be able to consume edible marijuana, which helps treat the symptoms of a neuro-immune disorder he suffers from that is similar to multiple sclerosis.Federal lawyers argued there is no constitutional right to cultivate marijuana or obtain it in a specific way, amount or form.“There is also no constitutional obligation imposed upon the government to ensure that medicine is made available at a cost that is subjectively acceptable to consumers,” read the defendant’s document.The government asked the judge to dismiss the plaintiffs’ action and leave “disputes over the wisdom of the particular policies adopted in relation to such access” to the political arena.There are about 38,000 doctor-approved medical marijuana users and some 17,000 of them buy from licensed producers, said John Conroy, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.When asked why it was unreasonable to ask all patients to buy marijuana from large-scale licensed operations, he said it was not.“This case is not about getting rid of the (licensed producers). We welcome them on the scene,” he said, adding that private growers “have been doing this safely for a long time … so what’s the problem? Again, it’s the government that just wants to stop everybody from doing it.”Federal lawyers had argued growing marijuana in a residential setting posed public health and safety risks, including mould, contamination, fire, home invasion and violence. Plaintiffs responded that those risks could be “mitigated to reasonable levels — levels that are equal to, or less than, other lawful activities.”The judge reserved decision on the lengthy case. While both sides wait for a resolution to the standoff, those who had been allowed to possess and grow marijuana under the old system continue to do so under a temporary injunction.Justice Canada did not respond to a request for comment Friday.Source: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/medical+marijuana+case+wraps+Federal+Court/11025563/story.html

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