Form letter: Regarding Proposed Restrictions to Health Canada's Medical Marijuana Program
I am deeply concerned about the response by Health Canada to the various court decisions declaring its existing medical marijuana program unconstitutional. The proposals that have been brought forward fail to deal with the myriad of problems in the program. Specifically, I take issue with the following proposals:
Physician as “Gatekeeper”:
R v Mernagh found that physicians in Canada have effectively boycotted the existing medical marijuana program, and therefore the program itself was unconstitutional. Health Canada's response does nothing to address this boycott beyond the promise of making information accessible to physicians. Any changes to the Health Canada medical marijuana program must abide by the findings in R v Mernagh and meaningfully expand the “Gatekeeper” role beyond physicians, preferably to include Naturopaths, Nurse Practitioners, Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacists.
Personal and Designated Production:
Individuals have spent thousands of dollars and often years of time setting up production facilities and finding appropriate marijuana cultivars (strains) for their condition. Court cases including Sfetkopolous, Beren and Hitzig have found that denying production licenses on arbitrary grounds violates a patient's constitutional rights to access medical marijuana.
Contrary to extensive misinformation campaigns in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, led by the RCMP research chair at the UCFV, there is no evidence that medical marijuana production facilities contribute any more to public safety threats than a myriad of other permitted activities (including cooking at home, having expensive possessions, installing a hot-tub, growing tomato plants). Any changes to the Health Canada medical marijuana program must include the preservation of personal and designated production.
Authorized medical marijuana patients from across Canada report that local police often fail to recognize current medical marijuana authorization identification, detaining and even arresting patients and often illegally seizing their medication. The proposal to remove any formal identification for patients will only lead to more unlawful detention of patients by local police. Any changes to the Health Canada medical marijuana program must include patient identification and education programs to ensure police do not continue to unlawfully detain authorized patients.
For profit production:
The proposal by Health Canada to only allow medical marijuana to be produced for profit by an oligopolistic group of license holders, at a price point those producers set, will be a disaster for patient access in Canada. Not only will patients be unable to acquire strains they have bred specifically for their symptoms, but they will be subject to exorbitant increases in price. Especially for patients who require large dosages this will result in an inability to access medication. The current holder of the Health Canada commercial production license has failed to create an adequate supply for Canadians. Patients report low quality, low efficacy, high prices and ineffective medical quality. There is simply no reason to believe that expanding the system of commercial production, based on current Health Canada requirements will result in any positive changes to patient access. Any changes to the Health Canada medical marijuana program must include alternatives to a purely profit driven system of production.
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries:
The current proposals by Health Canada do nothing to address the court sanctioned yet unlicensed system of medical marijuana dispensaries in Canada. These Dispensaries serve several times more patients than the current Health Canada program, and patients report much higher satisfaction with dispensary services. Any changes to the Health Canada program must include licensing the existing network of dispensaries.
The proposals by Health Canada constitute less than a bad faith response to court orders, they represent outright defiance. The current proposals do not meet the needs of medical marijuana patients in Canada, and will result in a further restriction of patient access to medical marijuana. I call upon Health Canada to return to the drawing board and come up with a program designed to succeed, not fail. I call on Health Canada to honour the spirit and intent of court rulings and create a meaningful system of workable access for medical marijuana.
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