On April 1, the federal government will enact a new law banning individuals from growing medical marijuana for their own use. Instead, those who wish to acquire the drug will be forced to buy it from provincially-approved growers, who then mail the dried product to the patients. Currently, only seven growers are approved; their prices vary from $5-$15/gram.
In Canada, there are nearly 40,000 medical marijuana patients; when the program was initiated in 2001, there were 100. Many patients grow their own marijuana, depending on their needs and ailment, such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, or chemo therapy. Most say they need the drug to function, and some require 40 grams or more a day to manage their condition. In such cases, patients would have to pay $200/day for the drug—a prohibitive cost, and one that is much higher than what it takes to grown the plant themselves.
The government contends the new change will help regulate medicinal marijuana, and protect patients from hazards such as fire, mould, and potential break-ins and burglary. It also claims the new law will also stop abuse of licences and black market trade.
Opponents to the law, however, say it really just makes it harder to get medicine patients desperately need. John Conroy, a lawyer from Burnaby, B.C., has launched a constitutional challenge against the law. Conroy argues that the law would deny his clients’ reasonable access to medicine they desperately need. Not only will patients be unable to afford buying from state approved growers, he argues, certain strains of the plant that have been found effective for some conditions would no longer be available.
Conroy has asked for a temporary injunction to the law until the court makes a decision on his constitutional challenge. In the meantime, one couple is also suing the government for $6.5 million, the amount they say they will be forced to pay for the medicine they could happily grow for a fraction of the price: $500. Many medicinal marijuana users are simply vowing to ignore the new law, and continue growing their own pot.
Let’s hope it is all one big, elaborate April Fool’s prank.