The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has called on the federal government to make major changes to the new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. The heart of the new program is the elimination of licenses for patients to grow their own medical marihuana or to designate a grower for their medical marihuana. Under the new program, patients will have to purchase their medical marihuana from a new, not yet existing, industry of commercial medical marihuana providers. The BCCLA says that this will effectively deny access to patients most in need.
“The government’s own estimates show that the cost to those patients who need daily medication would amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month,” said Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the BCCLA. “This is an insupportable burden for many patients and makes access to medication impossible for anyone who is living on disability benefits. The government is legally required to provide “reasonable access” to medical marihuana and the complete inability of anyone on a disability income to afford these medications is obviously not “reasonable access”.
The BCCLA called on the federal government to retain personal and designate production licenses, noting that many jurisdictions balance access and safety concerns by having reasonable limits on the number of plants that can be grown in a residential setting. The BCCLA also urged the government to do more to ensure patients have access to physicians who are participating in the medical marihuana program and to include the proven model of community-based dispensaries in the program.
Vonn added: “It is good that Health Canada proposes to give doctors more information about using marihuana for therapeutic purposes, but the efforts to increase access must go farther. Patients in some parts of the country have no effective access and some communities’ access is so precarious that it is effectively lost with a single physician’s relocation or retirement.”
The submission of the BCCLA also calls on the government to no longer restrict medical users to dried marihuana. “The courts have made clear, and we agree, that forcing people to smoke to take their medication is an obvious violation of patient’s rights.”