Court to decide who can grow medical marijuana

Pot home growers in court fight against Ottawa'a Big Bud model that would ban their legal medicine gardens

Cori Petersen was among a handful of pro-pot demonstrators who carried signs outside the Federal Court building in Vancouver on Thursday in support of a court challenge on behalf of medical marijuana users.

Cori Petersen was among a handful of pro-pot demonstrators who carried signs outside the Federal Court building in Vancouver on Thursday in support of a court challenge on behalf of medical marijuana users.

Final arguments wrapped up Friday in a court challenge of the federal government’s move to ban home growing of medical marijuana by doctor-approved users.

A win by pro-pot advocates would blow a big hole in the new federal system imposed last spring that outlawed previously legal home grows and tried to force all patients to buy only from new commercial producers. Those companies will have the exclusive right to grow and sell if Ottawa prevails.

Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy told Judge Michael Phelan the new system means much higher medical marijuana costs for thousands of users who until now have been able to grow their own and who have a court-enshrined right in Canada to reasonable access to their medicine.

“Reasonable access is required for all medical marijuana patients, not just those who can afford it,” Conroy said Thursday. “The government knew what they were doing was not going to be viable for every approved patient, but only for some.”

The plaintiffs, who use home-grown marijuana to treat various illnesses, include Nanaimo resident Neil Allard and Mission resident Shawn Davey. Surrey resident David Hebert had also legally grown pot on a federal permit for his severely ill wife, but now buys on the black market after they moved to a new home where a grow was no longer possible.

A temporary injunction allowed home and delegated growing to continue until the challenge of the new Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) could be heard in Federal Court.

There were 38,000 patients approved to use medical marijuana in Canada last year – half of them in B.C. – and Health Canada has estimated that number will top 400,000 within 10 years.

Conroy and Vancouver lawyer Kirk Tousaw argue the new MMPR system violates the constitutional right to life, liberty and security of the person because it either deprives some patients of the medicine they need but can’t afford at higher commercial prices, or else forces them to break the law and risk jail and property seizure to grow it themselves or buy it on the black market.

Those who continue to grow significant numbers of plants illegally could face mandatory jail terms of at least six months, court was told, and potential loss of homes or property under provincial civil forfeiture provisions.

Tousaw said medically approved patients should have the right to grow their own pot, or have a caregiver do it for them “without the fear that they’re going to be arrested and convicted of criminal offences or have their property seized.”

Health Canada lawyers argued it’s illogical to let home growing continue under a hybrid two-tier system.

They say the named plaintiffs could afford to buy pot in the legal commercial system, where most strains sell for $5 to $8 a gram, but merely prefer not to.

“There is no constitutional right to cultivate marijuana,” the federal written argument states, adding the MMPR regulations are “a considered and valid policy choice that achieves legitimate health and public safety objectives, and does not impede patient’s reasonable access to medical marijuana.”

Evidence brought by Ottawa centred around the risk of public harm, fires, mould, odour, crime and other problems from residential growing.

Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis told the court those problems were widespread, but Tousaw dismissed his evidence as mainly focused on illegal grows, not legal ones.

An RCMP expert testified many legal medical pot gardens grow more plants than are allowed or necessary, with the surplus being sold in the black market.

Health Canada estimated it would cost $55 million a year if it attempted to inspect all legal medical grows annually, and argued that cost would soar with the continued “exponential” growth of authorized users.

Other aspects of federal policy were also under fire during the trial, including a 150-gram possession limit for medical pot.

Federal officials argue it’s a safety measure so users aren’t targeted for theft but they conceded there is no such limit for patients prescribed other drugs such as Oxycodone.

The limit is intended to allow a 30-day supply based on five grams used a day, but the court heard typical medical pot users consume 18 grams daily and can’t take an adequate supply on a long vacation as a result.

The Supreme Court of Canada is deliberating on a separate court challenge in which Tousaw and Conroy have argued the federal rule that new commercial producers sell only dried pot – not extracts, edibles and oils – is unconstitutional.

Tousaw rejected suggestions the budding new commercial pot industry is doomed to fail unless the grow-your-own option is uprooted.

The commercial target market, he said in an interview, is people who can’t or won’t grow their own.

“People like my grandmother, who could have used medical cannabis but was never going to grow it for herself. But if she could get it in a reasonable way, she’d buy it.”

Just Posted

Rahim Manji owns and operates the Hollywood 3 Cinemas in Newton, along with the Caprice in South Surrey, a theatre in Duncan and another in Pitt Meadows. “I think right now it feels different than last June, it just does,” Manji said. “I’m a lot more optimistic, with more people calling, more people out and getting vaccinated, so I think the comfort level is a lot better.” (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey movie theatre operators reopen and rejoice, even with 50-max capacity

‘We have been one of the hardest-hit industries’

A sign warning of a pack of coyotes hangs near 2660 Croydon Dr. (Aaron Hinks photo)
South Surrey woman sounds alarm after encounter with pack of coyotes

Susan Martin said three full-grown coyotes were lurking around her home

(Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police searching for Surrey woman missing at Centennial Beach

Wenyan Lan, 54, reported missing when she didn’t come home from a crabbing/clam digging trip June 14

Ian MacDonald, spokesman for Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service launches public consultation campaign

This is to help the SPS form its first strategic plan

Outdoor vendors at the Cloverdale Flea Market are seen in this bird’s eye view image from the flea market’s Facebook page.
Cloverdale Flea Market to reopen

Market to open June 20 after being closed since Nov. 2020

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

Most Read