Pubdate: Fri, 19 Aug 2016
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Black Press
Author: Jeff Nagel


The lawyer who successfully overturned the former Conservative
government's ban on the home growing of medical marijuana is praising
a move by the federal Liberals to create a new licensing system for
doctor-approved patients.

Kirk Tousaw said the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes
Regulations, which take effect Aug. 24, appear to be much the same as
the old home growing licenses that prevailed until 2014 when the
Conservative government tried to outlaw them and force approved
patients to buy only from licensed commercial producers.

A Federal Court judge ruled last February that system was unfair to
medical marijuana users who wanted to grow their own medicine, or
designate someone to do it for them, and gave Ottawa six months to
rewrite the rules.

"It looks like it's essentially identical to the old system," Tousaw
said. "I'm certainly quite pleased and gratified that the current
government seems to be much more receptive to the guidance of the
courts than the prior Conservative government."

Patients who are approved under the ACMPR rules will be able to grow
five plants per day indoors (or two outdoors) for each daily gram of
marijuana they're authorized to use.

An injunction that exempted the 28,000 previously licensed growers
from criminal prosecution remains in effect for now because federal
officials admit they don't have the capacity to issue new licences to
all potential current users at once.

Health Canada says it will evaluate how the new system performs in
providing reasonable medical access to cannabis, but will also study
other potential delivery models, such as via pharmacies.

A statement issued by the federal department emphasizes the new
regulations provide an immediate solution to the federal court ruling,
but shouldn't be interpreted as a long-term plan for medical access.

The federal government has named a task force to advise on how it
should move next year to legalize and tightly regulate recreational
marijuana access.

Nearly 70,000 medical marijuana users are receiving pot from the 34
licensed producers.

Those outlets will now be an option for legal access, but not the only

The commercial producers will be the only legal source of cannabis
seeds or starter plants.

Some representatives of commercial producers of pot reacted with

But Canopy Growth Corp., owner of producer Tweed Inc., said it intends
to offer rent space, genetic stock and supplies in its facilities to
customers who would like to grow their own plants, but outside their

The company said it has always supported home growing but called the
new rules a policy setback because they do not yet address the
problems of diversion to the black market, growing more than the
authorized limits and the inability for police to differentiate
between legal and illegal pot.

The federal government continues to take the position that cannabis
dispensaries, which have proliferated in Vancouver in particular, are
illegal storefront suppliers and subject to enforcement.

Tousaw said legal advocates will next be defending dispensaries -
which he called the primary access point for most Canadians -
following raids in various cities.

He also wants the government to make it easier for more growers to
enter the commercial market, even at a small scale.

"It's almost an art to grow extremely high quality connoisseur-grade
cannabis," Tousaw said. "People should be able to participate. If you
can produce it and meet the lab testing requirements for safety and
lack of contamination, then the government shouldn't have any business
telling you how you achieve those goals."

Municipalities, meanwhile, continue to be concerned that the
proliferation of legal grow-ops in residential areas - with a variety
of associated health and safety concerns - will now continue unabated
with the reinstatement of home grow licensing.

Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis, whose testimony about the dangers of home
growing was largely dismissed by the federal court, said he remains
concerned about electrical fire safety risks from amateur rewiring and
other hazards such as mould and herbicide contamination.

"We've been into almost 2,000 of these places and every one of them
had a problem," Garis said, referring to the City of Surrey's system
of inspecting home grows it identifies, usually from electricity use

"Our opinion still stands that it's not an appropriate medium to be
growing anything that involves that amount of humidity and those kinds
of alterations to be able to do that."

Garis said while municipalities will likely be forced to respect
federal licensing, they can still apply appropriate safety and zoning
regulations to try to minimize impacts either on current or future
residents of a home, or other neighbours.
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