Pubdate: Wed, 27 Feb 2008
Source: Monday Magazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Monday Publications
Author: Jason Youmans
Cited: Vancouver Island Compassion Society
Bookmark: (Parker, Terry)
Bookmark: (Vancouver Island Compassion Society)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)


It is only thanks to favourable decisions by a handful of committed 
lawyers and sympathetic judges that Canada boasts even the anaemic 
national medical cannabis program it has today.

The slow march toward establishing the rights of the sick to access 
therapeutic pot began in 1999 when a superior court judge recognized 
Ontario resident Jim Wakeford's right to grow and possess cannabis to 
treat symptoms of his HIV/AIDS without fear of legal recourse by the 
state. In response to that ruling, Health Canada declared it would 
henceforth allow clients meeting its vague criteria to receive an 
exemption to Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).

In 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled the Section 56 exemptions 
unconstitutional in the case of Terry Parker when it was revealed 
there was no regulatory oversight and that discretion for who could, 
or could not, receive a Section 56 exemption rested entirely with the 
Canadian Minister of Health.

Philippe Lucas writes in the January 2008 issue of Harm Reduction 
Journal, "As a result of these legal challenges the constitutional 
validity of Canada's drug control program regulations is now legally 
dependent on the existence of a working federal medical cannabis 
program." [Emphasis added by Monday.]

Today, that program is the Marihuana Medical Access Division, built 
from the ashes of the Office of Cannabis Medical Access.

However, in January 2003 the MMAD was found unconstitutional by 
Ontario Superior Court Justice Sidney Lederman, who accused the 
federal government of providing what he called the "illusion of 
access." Lederman's ruling required Heath Canada to supply authorized 
clients a regular and legal supply of medical cannabis.

"Laws which put seriously ill, vulnerable people in a position where 
they have to deal with the criminal underworld to obtain medicine 
they have been authorized to take, violate the constitutional right 
to security of the person," Justice Lederman said in his ruling.

In October that same year, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled five 
MMAR sections constitutionally invalid.

In January 2008, Federal Justice Barry Strayer ruled it 
unconstitutional that licensed growers should be bound to grow for 
only one client. This ruling opens the way for licensed growers to 
begin supplying cannabis to multiple clients.

"In my view it is not tenable for the government to, consistently 
with the rights established in other courts for qualified medical 
users to have reasonable access to marijuana, to force them either to 
buy from the government contractor, grow their own or be limited to 
the unnecessarily restrictive system of designated producers," wrote Strayer.

Currently the Vancouver Island Compassion Society is in B.C. Supreme 
Court following a 2004 raid on its Metchosin production facility to 
challenge the constitutionally of the MMAD on the grounds the federal 
branch unnecessarily restricts access to the program, supplies an 
inadequate source of cannabis and imposes arbitrary limitations on 
production and distribution.
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