Pubdate: Wed, 04 Jul 2001
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2001, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Brain Laghi


Ottawa - People who grow or possess marijuana for medicinal purposes will 
be given photo identification cards to prevent needless hassle by judicial 
authorities under new federal regulations to be unveiled Wednesday.

The rules define the terms under which Canadians will be allowed to hold 
marijuana for medical purposes starting on July 30.

"Today's announcement is a landmark in our ongoing effort to give Canadians 
suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses access to marijuana for 
medical purposes," Health Minister Allan Rock said in a news release 
obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Health Canada will provide the photo ID cards, which can be shown to police 
officers as evidence that the person is permitted to possess marijuana.

"The identification cards will carry only the basic information required to 
identify the individual as a holder of an authorization and/or licence to 
produce and to show possession and production limits," the release said.

The Supreme Court ruled a year ago that Canadians who need to smoke 
marijuana for medical reasons have the legal right to do so under the 
Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The regulations are designed to bring 
Canada's marijuana law into line with that ruling and allow those who need 
the drug for pain and symptom relief to obtain it from a licensed grower.

A draft version of the regulations that was unveiled last April contained a 
little-noticed proposal to provide ID cards for people allowed to use 
marijuana. After consultations with groups such as doctors, patients and 
police, growers were added to the group to be given cards.

The regulations will allow marijuana to be used by people who are expected 
to die of an illness within 12 months; those with chronic medical 
conditions such as AIDS and multiple sclerosis; and those with serious 
medical conditions who can't find relief in any other way.

In the interim between the court ruling and the new regulations, the 
government decided who got to use medical marijuana on a case-by-case basis.

During the consultations, the interested parties suggested the changes to 
prevent harassment from police and to streamline access to the drug.

Physicians and medical groups were concerned that requiring doctors to 
complete applications for the drug on behalf of patients might discourage 
them from participating. The amended regulations now allow the patients to 
fill out the applications, although doctors will still have to produce 
signed statements giving their approval.

The government also removed a proposed restriction that would have banned 
growing medicinal marijuana within a kilometre of schools. The prevalence 
of schools in cities would have almost certainly made it impossible for a 
grower to cultivate the plant anywhere in an urban area.

Finally, the government has decided to eliminate a proposed requirement for 
a document proving that a grower does not have a criminal record in another 
country. "The regulation was unreasonable and practically impossible to 
provide," says the department.

Under the regulations, people authorized to possess marijuana can get it 
from a designated grower or produce their own. In the future, they will 
also be able to obtain it from a supplier licensed by Health Canada. The 
department has already contracted a Saskatoon company under a five-year, 
$5.7-million deal to grow the plant.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom