Pubdate: Thu, 25 Feb 2016
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2016 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Alexandra Paul
Page: A13


Users now allowed to raise pot for own consumption

WINNIPEG medical-marijuana patients hailed a federal court ruling that
struck down "arbitrary and overbroad" legislation from the former
Conservative government banning Canadian medical pot users from
growing their own weed.

And the one company in Winnipeg with a federal licence to supply
medical marijuana indicated the ruling won't affect it, at least not
in the short term.

The city's most vocal advocate for medical-marijuana rights said even
without knowing whether Ottawa will appeal the ruling, he couldn't
contain his delight.

"I'm super-excited, very elated. We won as far as I'm concerned,"
Steven Stairs said. "The courts have said we have a right to access,
that eliminating our right to grow was unconstitutional."

Judge Michael Phelan found the Marijuana for Medical Purposes
Regulations, which required patients to buy from licensed producers,
violated their charter rights.

In a written federal court ruling issued Wednesday in Vancouver,
Phelan suspended the decision to strike down the law for six months,
allowing the federal Liberal government time to create a new
medical-marijuana regime.

"I agree that the plaintiffs have... demonstrated that cannabis can be
produced safely and securely with limited risk to public safety and
consistently with the promotion of public health," the judge ruled.

"Their lives have been adversely impacted by the imposition of the
relatively new regime to control the use of marijuana for medical
purposes," Phelan wrote.

A lawyer who represents some of the private companies in the budding
industry said the ruling is not unexpected.

"They're not going to see a mass exodus of customers," said Trina
Fraser, a partner with the Ottawa Brazeau Seller law firm who
specializes in helping companies apply for federal licences to
cultivate medical marijuana.

"The importance that those licensed producers place on the future is
the recreational market," she said.

"All the people really that were going to grow it at home were doing
it anyway under the injunction that had been granted over a year ago
in the Allard case," Fraser said.

The constitutional challenge was launched by four British Columbia
residents who argued the 2013 legislation blocked their access to
affordable medicine. One of them was Neil Allard, whose name became
the shorthand reference for the case.

"There are a thousand questions that spin out of this decision. But
what it boils down to, as this decision stands, is there will be a
right to cultivate, to some degree, for medical-use purposes," Fraser

Delta 9 Bio Tech, the one private company in Winnipeg that cultivates
and distributes marijuana under a federal licence, has seen its client
list more than triple in the last year, despite the Allard court

Delta 9 produces 30 varieties of marijuana ranging from $5 to $10 a
gram for licensed medical patients; the client list has jumped to
1,200 from about 300 in the last year, suggesting many patients don't
want to grow their own pot. Some 70 per cent of the client list also
vapes their pot through a vapourizer Delta 9 sells. The company touts
its subsidies for low-income clients. They amounted to $150,000 in
discounts in the last year.

"Immediately, I don't think this has any implications on our business,
our patients, our physicians. We're business as usual," Delta 9
vice-president John Arbuthnot said.

Health Canada told industry growers it's reviewing the decision and
expects to "issue guidance in the very near future," Arbuthnot said.

Ottawa had yet to say publicly Wednesday whether the government will
appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg company isn't ruling out an eventual expansion
to the recreational-marijuana market.

"At Delta 9 Bio Tech, we are focused on the medical side. We obviously
are positioning, and exploring the opportunities that may be presented
by legalization. We will certainly look to move into that market when
it presents itself, as appropriate," Arbuthnot said.

Phelan also extended a court injunction allowing people who held
licences to grow their own marijuana to continue until a further court

That order includes Stairs and approximately 200 medical-marijuana
users in the province with licences to grow their own pot. Across
Canada, 30,000 of the 40,000 registered medical-marijuana patients
hold grow licences that were hanging on the decision in Vancouver.

"The only real concern I have now is the Liberal government and its
intentions regarding their legalization efforts and incorporating this
court decision into that model," Stairs said.

"They've been given six months to respond and come up with a plan, so
let's hope with the consultations they have going on right now in the
Senate, maybe they'll take this as a stepping stone, a push in the
right direction," Stairs said.

The Liberals have committed to regulating and legalizing recreational
marijuana but have said little about any plans for medical marijuana
since being elected.

- - with files from The Canadian Press
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