Thursday April 24, 2014

question of the week

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The recriminalization of Canadians

Off the beach

Unless something radical happens, in less than four months the activities of thousands of Canadians — some of them desperately ill — will be recriminalized under federal law.

On April 1, 2014, when Ottawa’s new corporate medical marijuana system takes effect, the right granted by the state to Canadians since 2001 to grow cannabis for personal medical use will be completely nullified.

That means about 25,000 patients who are growing their own medicine — and have been in some cases for a dozen years — will be breaking the law if they continue to grow even one plant. The same applies to more than 4,000 designated growers.

In fact, according to Health Canada, anyone who is now authorized to possess or produce medical marijuana “will be advised to destroy or dispose of their marijuana and/or plants no later than March 31, 2014. As of April 1, 2014, the only legal means to access marijuana for medical purposes will be through a licensed producer under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR).”

There are currently three commercial producers listed on Health Canada’s website who have been licensed under the MMPR program. That’s compared to almost 30,000 people — soon to be outlawed — who in some cases have developed sophisticated strains to treat particular conditions, at great cost and effort.

Will there be a large enough supply on April 1 to meet the needs of up to 40,000 Canadians? Will it be as effective as the cannabis currently produced? Will it be priced out of the range of many patients who now access it at a fraction of the cost?

None of those questions apparently matter. What matters is that by April 1 everyone burns, buries or flushes their weed. Apparently some criminals have been taking advantage of the situation, some growers have been careless about mildew and wiring, and so everyone has to be recriminalized unless they get with the program.

And the new program explicitly dictates that no marijuana shall be grown outdoors, nor will the sale of resins, oils, extractions or edible marijuana products be allowed; only dried buds for smoking. It’s a rather novel approach to medicine, isn’t it?

The law will be in effect across Canada, but it will hit B.C. hardest by far. Health Canada statistics up to the end of 2012 show that more than half of the 18,000 Canadians with personal-use production licences resided in B.C., as did almost two-thirds of the 3,400 designated growers.

More British Columbians are having their rights stolen than Canadians from all other provinces combined.

Maybe that’s why the appalling heavy-handedness of this new law, based on flimsy anecdotal fear mongering about house fires and biker gangs, seems to have caused barely a ripple of public indignation across the country.

Here in the cannabis heartland, an Abbotsford lawyer recently launched a class action suit on behalf of four plaintiffs to have the new law declared unconstitutional. But otherwise the activist community has been disappointingly passive on the issue, focusing its energies instead on the Sensible BC campaign (which looks like it’s heading for oblivion).

This is about taking away rights that have been fought for and granted. With governments around the world stripping rights from their citizens in the name of national security, all Canadians should be alarmed by this move against a politically inconsequential minority. If their rights can be flushed, so can yours.



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