Pubdate: Thu, 25 Feb 2016
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The New York Times Company
Author: Ian Austen


OTTAWA - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not yet fulfilled his 
promise to legalize marijuana in Canada, but the country's Federal 
Court ruled Wednesday that prescription holders could grow their own supply.

The decision is the latest in a series of court rulings on the issue, 
including decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada, that found that 
denying medical access to marijuana violated the Canadian Charter of 
Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling adds to confusion about the legal status of marijuana, 
partly created by the lack of detail surrounding the Liberal 
government's plan. Twenty-nine companies, many well funded, were 
licensed by the previous Conservative government to grow and sell 
medical marijuana, but they may now face financial pressure.

"The evidence at trial failed to show that public safety will be 
advanced in any significant way by the removal of the ability to 
lawfully and safely continue to personally produce medical cannabis," 
Judge Michael L. Phelan wrote in the decision.

Judge Phelan suspended his order for six months to allow the 
government time to come up with a new system and regulations to allow 
and control home growing.

He said that the current law restricted patients' liberty by leaving 
them under the threat of criminal prosecution and that it was overly 
broad and not supported by compelling evidence.

The decision, which was based on a legal challenge brought by four 
medical marijuana users, is likely to return Canada to a variation of 
its previous system. Also the result of a court ruling, that system 
gave patients licenses to grow medical marijuana or have someone else 
do it for them. The federal government also sold subsidized marijuana itself.

But the previous Conservative government became alarmed by the rapid 
growth in the number of people growing marijuana as well as the cost 
and its ability to inspect the operations. In 2013, it scrapped the 
home-growing licenses and required prescription holders to buy from 
tightly regulated commercial producers.

Many patients, including those who brought the Federal Court case, 
complained that the new system denied them access to strains of 
marijuana that they believe are particularly effective for their 
conditions. They also were concerned about the cost of marijuana from 
the new companies.
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