Pubdate: Tue, 18 Mar 2014
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The Toronto Star
Author: Isabel Teotonio
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Destroy Personal Marijuana Supplies Before April 1 or Face Police, 
Health Canada Warns

Health Canada is warning medicinal marijuana users and growers, 
licensed under an outgoing law, that if they don't destroy and 
dispose of their pot before new regulations take full effect April 1 
the police will be notified.

The department is asking those licensed under the old program to fill 
out a form declaring they no longer have any cannabis obtained under 
the outgoing Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR). They'll 
have until April 30 to respond. Those who don't comply with the 
directive risk having the police show up at their door.

That's a risk one Fort Erie, Ont. grower says he will have to take. 
William, who asked that his real name not be used, suffers from a 
number of ailments and says Health Canada is "going after sick people."

"The department will take compliance and enforcement action," reads 
the Health Canada memo posted on the federal agency's website and 
being mailed to more than 40,000 users and growers licensed under the 
old program. "This includes informing law enforcement of your failure 
to notify Health Canada. . . . In addition, the department will 
continue to co-operate with police, and provide information needed to 
protect public safety."

A good way to dispose of one's supply, the Health Canada statement 
reads, is to "break up the plant material, blend the marijuana with 
water and mix it with cat litter to mask the odour. This can then be 
placed in your regular household garbage."

Health Canada is relying on people to be truthful about their pot 
disposal. So, if users fill out the form stating they have complied, 
there will be no verification.

Staff Inspector Randy Franks of the Toronto Drug Squad anticipates 
police across Canada will be notified some time after April 30 about 
those who didn't comply. He expects law enforcement will be provided 
with names, addresses, the number of plants people were allowed to 
grow and what amount of marijuana they were entitled to possess. 
Currently, police aren't entitled to that kind of personal 
information, unless the individual has been part of an investigation.

Although police will wait for Health Canada to give them information 
about those not in compliance, Franks says immediate enforcement 
action will be taken if police receive complaints. "If there's a 
(grow-op) in an apartment or a multiunit dwelling and a neighbour 
complains about a grow, then we're going to take enforcement action 
sooner," he told the Star. "We may well be taking action (April 1)." 
Defence lawyer Paul Lewin, who's worked on many cases involving 
marijuana offences, says "it is unconstitutional for the health care 
branch of government to give health records over to the law 
enforcement branch of government." "Any privacy breach is bad, but 
this is particularly egregious because it is in the health-care 
context," said Lewin, the Ontario regional director of the nonprofit 
group NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

The government is overhauling its medical marijuana program by 
outlawing personal production and forcing users to buy their cannabis 
from authorized commercial growers. It says the new law being phased 
in - the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) - prevents 
marijuana from being diverted to the black market and will put an end 
to unsafe grow ops and protect growers from being robbed.

But many medicinal users, who can grow their own marijuana for as 
little as $1a gram, fear they won't be able to afford the market 
price, which is expected to cost between $3 and $12 a gram.

Their concerns are playing out in a B.C federal court, where patients 
who want to keep growing their own cannabis because they can't afford 
commercial costs have filed a motion seeking an injunction.

On Tuesday, a judge will hear arguments from both the Crown and 
lawyer John Conroy, who represents the patients.

Conroy argues part of the new regulations are unconstitutional 
because some patients will be forced to choose between breaking the 
law to grow their own medication, or go without a medicine that's 
been approved for them by a physician.

"We have to convince the court that these folks will suffer 
irreparable harm if an injunction or exemption, pending trial, isn't 
granted," Conroy told the Star. "We're not trying to prevent the 
(MMPR) from being in effect, we're simply saying it's 
constitutionally defective in certain aspects."

If an injunction is not granted and personal production is outlawed 
beginning April1, William said he'll "absolutely" continue to grow 
his own medicine.

William suffers from conditions such as osteoarthritis and Graves' 
disease and consumes between 12 and 20 grams a day.

"It's cheaper to plant a seed than buy corporate weed," said the cook 
who's on a limited income.

(It costs him about $1.50 to grow a gram.)

Furthermore, he's invested about $8,000 into making his basement grow 
op safe and has perfected growing strains tailored for his ailments. 
Plus, he says harvesting his own plants - he currently has about 25 - 
is therapeutic.

Asking sick patients to toss out good medicine that they grew 
themselves is akin to telling people to dump everything in their 
refrigerator, he said. He calls Health Canada's decision to share 
personal information about patients with the police "a cruel move." 
"I feel like I'm being criminalized for taking care of myself."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom