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Cannabis at home: why today’s ruling is so important

Marijuana- free for noncommercial reuseThe BCCLA is thrilled by today’s historic court decision declaring that the current rules imposed on medical cannabis patients are unconstitutional. The Federal Court has given the federal government six months to fix the situation.

The BCCLA congratulates all the patients, lawyers and activists who brought their advocacy efforts to this victory for patients’ rights.

Here is why today’s ruling is so important.

While Canada was  among the very first countries to acknowledge a constitutional right for qualified patients to use medical cannabis, we have nevertheless developed one of the worst medical cannabis access regimes to be found anywhere.

The current regulations prohibit patients from growing their own medical cannabis.  To people who aren’t familiar with medical cannabis issues, this may seem a perfectly reasonable prohibition.  If one of the goals is to make medical cannabis use more like that of other medications, it would seem to make sense to have access controlled and regulated like other medications.  No one is whipping up batches of Tylenol 3 in their kitchens, after all.

Patients have a constitutional right to “reasonable access” to medical cannabis.  And simply put, restricting access to the federally regulated sources would be impossible for many patients to afford.  While the development of a supply industry is an inevitable and not unworkable response to the government’s clearly demonstrated failure to provide a satisfactory supply of medical cannabis for licensed users in the past, the current system has no mechanism for cost containment or cost coverage and leaves patients subject exclusively to market forces.  Virtually no one who is receiving a disability income would be able to afford the medication.  Many people need to grow their own cannabis if they are to use it as medication.

The BCCLA opposed these new regulations when they were introduced, noting in our submission that based on the price estimates contained in the government’s own Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, patients requiring daily medication would be paying over $500 a month for their medication and sometimes much more.   For almost any Canadian, such costs would be a formidable barrier to access, but for people on fixed disability incomes (in BC  less than a $1,000 per month),  the cost is a complete bar to access.

This wasn’t a horrible oversight on the part of the federal government. Their own documents acknowledged that a large percentage of current patients would simply be unable to access their medication under the new system.

The only thing that has prevented that happening, is the advocacy efforts that culminated in today’s court victory.   

Our congratulations again.  We are very honoured to work alongside such stalwart and effective allies.