Releaf Magazine
16Apr/111

Cannabis Legal in Canada for the Next three Months???

An Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled that the federal medical marijuana program is unconstitutional, giving the government three months to fix the problem before pot is effectively legalized.

In an April 11 ruling, Justice Donald Taliano found that doctors across the country have “massively boycotted” the medical marijuana program and largely refuse to sign off on forms giving sick people access to necessary medication.

As a result, legitimately sick people cannot access medical marijuana through appropriate means and must resort to illegal actions.

Doctors’ “overwhelming refusal to participate in the medicinal marijuana program completely undermines the effectiveness of the program,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

“The effect of this blind delegation is that seriously ill people who need marijuana to treat their symptoms are branded criminals simply because they are unable to overcome the barriers to legal access put in place by the legislative scheme.”

Taliano declared the program to be invalid, as well as the criminal laws prohibiting possession and production of cannabis. He suspended his ruling for three months, giving Ottawa until mid-July to fix the program or face the prospect of effectively legalizing possession and production of cannabis.

The judge’s decision comes in a criminal case involving Matthew Mernagh, 37, of St. Catharines who suffers from fibromyalgia, scoliosis, seizures and depression.

Marijuana is the most effective treatment of Mernagh’s pain. But despite years of effort, he has been unable to find a doctor to support his application for a medical marijuana licence.

Mernagh resorted to growing his own cannabis and was charged with producing the drug.

Taliano found doctors essentially act as gatekeepers to the medical marijuana program but lack the necessary knowledge to adequately give advice or recommend the drug. He also found that Health Canada has made “no real attempt to deal with this lack of knowledge.”

Taliano said the issue is Canada-wide.

Twenty-one patients from across the country testified in the case, saying they were rejected by doctors a total of 113 times.

One Alberta patient was refused by 26 doctors; another in Vancouver approached 37 physicians without finding a single one to sign off on the form.

Patients also face lengthy delays — as long as nine months — in having their medical marijuana applications processed by Health Canada.

“The body of evidence from Mr. Mernagh and the other patient witnesses is troubling,” Taliano wrote. “The evidence of the patient witnesses, which I accept, showed that patients have to go to extraordinary lengths to acquire the marijuana they need.”

Lawyer Alan Young, a longtime advocate of marijuana legalization, said the ruling is a step in the right direction.

“It’s significant because it’s a Superior Court ruling which has binding effect across the province,” Young said.

“By enacting a dysfunctional medical program the government now has to pay the high cost of losing the constitutional authority to criminalize marijuana.”

He said the real test, however, will be whether the judgment stands up in the Ontario Court of Appeal.

“If the government is not successful on appeal, they are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place because they don’t have an alternative program in mind,” he said. “They don’t have a plan B. They’re in trouble.”

The medical profession has been wary of the medical marijuana program since it came into effect in August 2001.

On May 7, 2001, the Canadian Medical Association wrote a letter to the federal health minister expressing concerns with recommending a drug that has had little scientific evidence to support its medicinal benefits.

“Physicians must not be expected to act as gatekeepers to this therapy, yet this is precisely the role Health Canada had thrust upon them,” the letter stated.

- Seems like there is gonna be quite a bit of american tourist dollars pointing north in the next three months, and possibly indefinately if canada decriminalizes it as a whole.  

T$M

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14Apr/116

Canada Medical Update

Pot ruling expected to face federal appeal

Why is it that the Canadians understand this, but our bureaucratic government is more interested in big PHARMA KICKBACKS! -UA

BY BRADLEY BOUZANE  4/14/11  Vancouver Sun

When Nick Bala started chemotherapy, he asked his doctor for something to help with the nausea and vomiting that followed each treatment.

After about four months, Bala asked his doctor for a prescription for medicinal marijuana.

"I found that it made a huge difference to the nausea," Bala said Wednesday. "For me and many other people, it made chemotherapy much more bearable. It's very important this be made available to people who are suffering."

An Ontario court ruling this week may make that reality sooner rather than later. An Ontario Superior Court judge found marijuana cultivation and usage laws unconstitutional and gave the federal government three months to respond to the decision.

But Bala isn't leaping for joy just yet, knowing that the government may appeal the ruling. "This could be before the courts for years. It may have to go to a higher level of court," said Bala, a law professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

"I certainly hope we're moving to the day when people who have a prescription can get access to medical marijuana," he said. "This is one of those issues that has a moral quality to it when our politicians have been very slow to act. I think in this case it's been most unfortunate."

On Monday, the Ontario Superior Court declared the rules that govern medical marijuana access and the prohibitions laid out in sections 4 and 7 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act "constitutionally invalid and of no force and effect," effectively paving the way for legalization of the drug. Section 4 is the section that makes possession of marijuana illegal and Section 7 makes cultivation illegal.

If the government does not respond within 90 days with a successful delay or re-regulation of marijuana, the drug will be legal to possess and produce in Ontario, where the decision is binding.

The ruling stemmed from the constitutional challenge of Matthew Mernagh, a man who relies on medical marijuana to ease pain brought on by fibromyalgia, scoliosis, seizures and depression.

The Ontario Court of Appeal had previously recognized that to deprive someone with a serious illness of medical marijuana if it relieves their pain is a violation of the Charter of Rights.

As a result, the federal government created the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations to let people legally get, possess and grow marijuana if they have a licence supported by a medical doctor.

Health Canada's medical marijuana program regulates and approves the growers whom patients can buy from and how much they're legally allowed to use for their treatment.

As of April 1, more than 9,800 Canadians are legally permitted to possess medicinal marijuana, according to Health Canada. Nearly 5,600 people hold a personal grower's licence and 1,837 people hold a licence to grow for one other person.

However, Justice Donald Taliano wrote in his decision on Monday that Mernagh -a well-known marijuana advocate who has been charged for possession and production of marijuana numerous times -has been unable to get a doctor to sign off on a medical marijuana licence. Other patients run into the same problem, the judge noted in his ruling, and that forces some seriously ill people to obtain marijuana illegally.

"If I hadn't got it the way I did, I would certainly go outside the system," Bala said. "Even though it may mean breaking the law -and I do know people who have done that."

The executive director of a Victoria-based distributor of medical marijuana said the ruling is a step forward on an issue the group has been advocating.

"The decision itself is wonderful," said Steven Roberts of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, which is authorized to distribute medical marijuana. "It's a huge win."

Roberts said because it's a federal law, he hopes to see similar action roll across the country, although he said federal regulators likely will not remain quiet on the issue. He said an appeal of the decision is almost guaranteed.

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13Apr/111

Nice job, Canada.

Ontario Judge: Marijuana Criminalization Unconstitutional

BY SARAH BOESVELD, POSTMEDIA NEWS

TORONTO — Ontario is one step closer to the legalization of marijuana after the Ontario Superior Court struck down two key parts of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that prohibit the possession and production of pot.

The court declared the rules that govern medical marijuana access and the prohibitions laid out in Sections 4 and 7 of the act "constitutionally invalid and of no force and effect" on Monday, effectively paving the way for legalization.

If the government does not respond within 90 days with a successful delay or re-regulation of marijuana, the drug will be legal to possess and produce in Ontario, where the decision is binding.

The ruling stemmed from the constitutional challenge of Matthew Mernagh, a man who relies on medical marijuana to ease pain brought on by fibromyalgia, scoliosis, seizures and depression.

The Ontario Court of Appeal had previously recognized that to deprive someone with a serious illness of medical marijuana if it relieves their pain is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As a result of that, the federal government created the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations to let people legally get, possess and grow marijuana if they have a licence supported by a medical doctor.

Health Canada's medical marijuana program regulates and approves which growers patients can buy from and how much they're legally allowed to use for their treatment.

However, Justice Donald Taliano wrote in his decision on Monday that Mernagh — a well-known marijuana advocate who has been charged for possession and production of marijuana numerous times — has been unable to get a doctor to sign off on a medical marijuana licence.

"Doctors often have a great deal of difficulty with this and have in many cases blatantly outright refused to sign these forms," said Jacob Hunter, the policy director for the Vancouver-based Beyond Prohibition Foundation, which fights for the legalization of marijuana.

It has meant many Canadians waiting to be accepted into the medical marijuana program seek out medical marijuana without a licence, at times leading to possession and production-related arrests.

Mernagh's criminal charge is permanently stayed, Taliano wrote in his ruling, and he is granted a "personal exemption" to buy or produce marijuana during the 90 days given to the government in order to submit its challenge.

The decision is a huge win for legalization supporters and for medical marijuana patients.

"I think it represents a dramatic step forward for critically and chronically ill Canadians," B.C. lawyer and foundation executive director Kirk Tousaw said Tuesday night. "It is undoubtedly going to progress through the court system . . . but it's gratifying to see a court has accepted what so many thousand medical marijuana patients have been saying for years — that it's incredibly difficult if not impossible to access medical marijuana."

He compared the case to that of Henry Morgentaler, the abortion doctor and advocate whose constitutional win eventually led to the widespread legalization of abortion, one that "became legal without any real regulatory scheme surrounding it," Tousaw said.

Anti-drug action groups and others against the legalization of marijuana have said legalizing marijuana could lead to widespread use and increase crime rates.

Tousaw said that if unchallenged, the Ontario ruling could have a ripple effect across Canada. "I would argue that if marijuana is legal in Ontario, you can't realistically have it illegal in the rest of the country."

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