Pubdate: Wed, 04 Feb 2009
Source: Nanaimo Daily News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Nanaimo Daily News
Author: Robert Barron
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)
Bookmark: (Lucas, Philippe)


Strict limits on the production and distribution of medical marijuana
are unconstitutional, B.C. court determines

Another court decision, ruling that restrictions on the sale and
production of medicinal marijuana in Canada are unconstitutional, is
seen as "one more small step forward" by those who provide marijuana
to sick people in Nanaimo.

Richard Payne, a member of the Mid-Island Compassion Society that set
up in Nanaimo last year to provide medicinal marijuana, applauds the
decision of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Marvyn Koenigsberg. On Monday
she gave Ottawa one year to fix the medical-marijuana access
regulations so compassion clubs or producers can get together and run
a common marijuana-growing operation.

While Koenigsberg also found Mathew Beren (a hydroponic store owner
who ran a research facility operated by the Vancouver Island
Compassion Society) guilty of illegally trafficking and producing
marijuana in the same court hearing, she gave him an absolute
discharge on the conviction.

"The problems with providing medicinal marijuana users with a reliable
and safe marijuana supply has always been a big elephant in the room
with Health Canada's medical cannabis program that has been ignored,"
Payne said.

"It's now being revealed as the big lie it is by bold people who are
willing to stand against the system."

The national medical cannabis program has been plagued with problems
since its inception, with reports of contamination, low potency and
inflated prices.

Health Canada has never been able to sell its cannabis, grown by
Prairie Plant Systems of Flin Flon, Man., to more than 20% of all
licensed medical users in Canada. Each government-approved private
grower is limited in the number of plants they can grow as well as
being limited to supplying the needs of no more than three approved
users. Last year, Federal Court Justice Barry Strayer concluded that
Health Canada's "ineffective monopoly" didn't meet the needs of
patients and the restriction limiting the size of other medical
grow-operations was struck down as unconstitutional.

That decision is being appealed by the federal government.

Philippe Lucas, executive-director of Victoria's Vancouver Island
Compassion Club, said he was "incredibly pleased" with Koenigsberg's
decision against Health Canada's prohibitions on the sale and
production of medicinal pot, and especially the decision to give an
absolute discharge to his society's employee who could have faced up
to 14 years in prison.

"Once again, we have the failure of the federal government to
successfully prosecute legitimate organizations like ours," he told
the Daily News on Tuesday.

"The judge praised us for our good work and for providing a safe
marijuana supply in a safe environment for medicinal users. That's
five times in five years that courts have ruled against Health
Canada's restrictions."

But Ted Smith, from Victoria's Cannabis Buyers Club, said the judge
didn't go far enough in her ruling.

"I think Beren shouldn't have been found guilty of anything and
outright acquitted because just a discharge does not set a strong
enough precedent for future cases of this kind," he said Tuesday.
"Certainly, the courts are recognizing the value of medicinal
marijuana and this decision is not a negative one, but it could have
been stronger and sent a stronger statement to Health Canada."

Payne said he hopes the momentum will loosen the restrictions on
recreational use as well.
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