ONTD Political

Health Canada's solution to problems with the medical marijuana program: MOAR WRENCHES!

11:18 am - 07/21/2011
Health Canada is still accepting comments on proposed changes to the medical marijuana access program. To those who use the program, it feels very much like they're forcing through these changes regardless of any comments or questions actually received. The call for comments and questions was put out very much in time with the postal strike. Now, creeping up on the deadline to get your comments in (July 30), people are finally receiving the letters informing them about the proposed changes. As of July 20th I still haven't received my letter yet.

Because of the postal strike affecting people's ability to receive their mail, British Columbia extended it's HST referendum, it seems reasonable that Health Canada should do the same, but reasonable doesn't seem to be what they're going for.

This is a complicated issue that I'm very much involved in, so if I over explain or under explain the situation and my part in it, I apologize. I shall do my best. I'll explain first where I'm coming from and why I care. I'm a medical marijuana user, and I also work in a medicinal cannabis dispensary. It's the best job in the world and it has saved my life and enabled me to get good grades, fund my education, be an activist for more than just marijuana and be a visible character in my community. When I say I work in this industry, I help people navigate Health Canada's medical marijuana system. I find myself advising people on how to approach their doctors, counselling them if their doctor reacts poorly and trying to help them find a doctor who will sign their papers. I've spoken to little old ladies on oxygen tanks who want to eat pot brownies to help their anxiety who were bullied by their doctors over asking to get their papers signed. But the flip side is that I've also spoken to little old ladies whose doctors signed their papers without a second glance.

In Canada, we have the a national medical marijuana program. People with health conditions that find marijuana beneficial to them can apply for a license and be allowed to consume and grow their own medicine (or have a designated person grow it for them). The medical marijuana program has some issues, not the least of which is that doctors have been made the gatekeepers of this program. Very recently, the Supreme Court of Ontario ruled that the MMAR program as it stood then was unconstitutional, and overwhelming refusal to participate on the part of doctors was by the judge as "completely undermin[ing] the effectiveness of the program" the judge stated also that "the requirement for a medical doctor's declaration has rendered the MMAR unconstitutional". For more information on R v Mernagh: whyprohibition.ca/blogs/jacob-hunter/court-strikes-down-marijuana-laws-gives-government-90-days-fix-charter-issues

Canada's government immediately set to appeal the ruling: whyprohibition.ca/blogs/jesse-wentzloff/canadian-government-will-appeal-court-ruling-striking-down-marijuana-laws

And then as of about June the government sought to stop the 90 day deadline given in the R v Mernagh case to impose changes of their own. Which do not address the problems outlined in the Mernagh case. whyprohibition.ca/blogs/jesse-wentzloff/feds-seek-stoppage-mernagh-marijuana-ruling

The changes proposed have nothing to do with making the program easier to access. The improvements actually are not about making the program better for the patients really. Rather than speaking about all the proposed changes myself, Jacob Hunter on Why Prohibition wrote out an excellent petition addressing why the changes are not going to help the patients.  (I realize I've linked Whyprohibition.ca extensively, but they're awesome over there). Here is the petition: whyprohibition.ca/blogs/jacob-hunter/form-letter-regarding-proposed-restrictions-health-canadas-medical-marijuana-prog

And here are the proposed changes: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/consultation/marihuana/_2011/program/consult-eng.php#a4

Here's my issues with the proposed changes. Most of the issues that they're trying to 'address' stem from prohibition. Growing indoors (for which Health Canada licenses you for more plants, so most people do that) can be done without ruining a house, causing mould or increasing risk of fire. You get people ruining houses and engaging in risky electrical mishaps when they are forced to hide what they're doing. All of the medical growers I know (and my work puts me in touch with a LOT of medical growers) own their own houses, (so they don't want to destroy the house) and live in the houses for security, (so they don't want the house to burn down). They get electricians in and make their power system to code. I'll note that medical marijuana grow rooms can be shut down by authorities if they are NOT up to code.

Most of the problems to be addressed with these changes would be easily solved by LEGALIZING the substance. We have a wonderful system of dispensaries in most cities now that could be expanded to meet any and all demand. The job market in marijuana is extensive and includes contractors (for building rooms), electricians (for making fires not happen), growers, trimmers, dispensary workers, and a host of other potential sources of money to be put back into the system. Legalizing marijuana would allow people to grow as much as they wanted outside. The organized crime that gets involved with marijuana would be able to be taken down because the illegal things they do to growers who don't have the protection of a medical marijuana exemption, would be reported more. There is absolutely no reason why making the plant legal is not better for everyone involved and less expensive for everyone involved.

Most particularly the issue that bothers me most is the removal of personal production licenses and designated production licenses. People sink money into their grow rooms/green houses. Legally growing marijuana is the most wonderful thing in the world. It is extremely beneficial for people to be able to be in control of the process by which they get their medicine of choice. There isn't just the end product that is beneficial to the patient, growing gets people who might otherwise not get out of bed because of their pain (mental or physical) and gets them in a room with living plants, taking care of them. Most people take extreme amounts of pride in what they grow for themselves. I liken the ability to grow your own marijuana with horticultural therapy.

Health Canada is proposing that people no longer be able to grow their own, or (should they be unable, have a designated person grow for them. Instead they intend to issue commercial licenses to large scale operations which would be the only source of legal marijuana. Which in effect, would make a large group of people (including myself) into criminals. (Again). (Edited to fix HTML!fail)
romp 22nd-Jul-2011 03:55 am (UTC)
Thanks for putting this all together. I have an activist close to me so I hear about issues but it can be hard to keep up!

Designated growing: one problem is the way they count the number of plants allowed, right? They count wee babes that aren't helping anyone. If someone decided you could have 5 plants, you'd think that would be 5 producing plants. And I hear about organized crime pressuring growers to increase their number of plants which makes sense because that's the sort of thing (intimidation) organized crime does to growers, designated or not. And legalization would help with that.

This is so frustrating! My FIL had no problem getting marijuana prescribed when he was going through chemo but what if you have fibro, something not every dr even believes exists? Yet pot helps with the pain as well as the smooth muscle/IBS issues. So the dr-as-gatekeeper model concerns me too.

We can allowed to grow our own food and are smart to do so, especially as fuel prices rise. It makes sense to me to keep an herbal first aid kit in your garden as well.
luminescnece 22nd-Jul-2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
Yes. The plant numbers are a pain. Lots of people have been raided and 'busted' for having OMG! DOUBLE THE NUMBER THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE!... when in reality, they're about to crop out and they have a set of clones already going for next week when they cut their plants down.

Its basically harassment. There ARE some issues with organized crime becoming involved with the medical marijuana industry. Partially because designated growers have no allowed way to make money in their contract. They're legally not supposed to charge, and yet growing indoors is quite expensive. So a lot of DGs set up deals with their patients.

100% there are problems with the system, but most of them are caused by moralistic regulation and too much regulation. Most of them would be solved by less regulation... possibly even legalizing it. >.>

Fibromyalgia, as long as you've been diagnosed is actually very easy to get a license for. It's getting the diagnosis that is hard. There are a lot of people out there that live with health problems every day, smoking pot illegally to help with their symptoms (whether they know it or not) and running the risk of being one of the 58,000 people in Canada (last year) arrested for marijuana possession. It's sick really.

I've had lots of people tell me their doctor supported their use, but wouldn't sign papers.

It isn't even doctors being horrible individually. It's the provincial colleges of physicians usually putting out misinformation and lies to doctors about what will happen to them if they sign for people. A lot of fear and intimidation.
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