Patients Win Allard

The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) are unconstitutional. On February 24, 2016 Mr. Justice Phelan of the Federal Court gave the government six months to fix a medical cannabis regime that inhibits access to medical cannabis for no good reason. In the interim those with a Marihuana Medical Access Regulation (MMAR) license that had not expired by September 30, 2013 and an authorization to possess that had not expired by March 21, 2014 can continue to grow within the limits of their license and Mr. Justice Manson’s interim injunction. Unfortunately, everyone else has to wait for the government to fix the law. The case was argued by NORML Canada’s President John Conroy, and NORML Canada’s BC Regional Director Kirk Tousaw as well as by Tonia Grace, Bibhas Vaze and Matthew Jackson. Many helped with fundraising and financial support.

The patients – Neil Allard, Tanya Beemish, David Herbert and Shawn Davey – testified about the effect of the MMPR on their lives. Their evidence was accepted by the court. The court found that the MMPR created barriers to access in the form of high costs and limited strain availability. Patients were put in the position of having to choose between their liberty and their health. The people in the poorest health were the most vulnerable. The government argued that it was necessary to take away personal growing from patients because of the dangers of home growing (electrical hazards, air quality problems and diversion to the black market). The court found that the alleged electrical hazards can be addressed if overseen by a certified electrician, the air quality dangers can be extinguished with a proper ventilation system, and that the risk of diversion was speculative without an evidentiary foundation. As a result, the government was arbitrarily imposing barriers on access to medication.

It is a spectacular victory for cannabis patients and the cannabis community generally. It will provide better access for patients and it has the potential to help shape the legalized regime. It is a big step towards the democratization of the cannabis plant.

Paul Lewin, @PaulLewinLawyer

Liberal Senators Discuss Legalization

The Senate Open Caucus on Legalization of Marijuana — Wednesday, 24 February — was a sold out show. Liberal Senators — severed by the leader from the House caucus — were there. Jodie Emery was there. Boris St. Maurice was there. And there was a lot of national media on hand and people from industry.

Bill Blair opened by re-committing the government to legalization but to also taking the necessary time to get it right. Blair talked a lot of public health language. The panelists each presented pretty much as we have come to expect from them. Benedict Fischer and Eugene Oscapella making the evidence-informed points that (a) prohibition is the worst regulatory option if one is really committed to a public health approach and (b) there is too much hair-on-fire alarmism circulating in the tired metaphors offered up by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. The President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police made a plea for clear and consistent guidelines that his officers could enforce — “just give us the rules already.”

A couple of senators asked good questions — Larry Campbell among them — while a Conservative senator did some fear-mongering about cannabis and mental health which gave Benedict Fischer the opportunity to point out that many thousands of kids suffer life-altering brain injuries playing hockey but that no one is talking about prohibiting hockey.

NORML asked its question — “What’s the best argument for NOT ending cannabis prosecutions right now?” — but, according to Bill Blair, the best argument is that “The law is the law.” Period. Full stop. Yet every panelist and even Blair himself admitted that one of the major problems with the status quo is the unevenness of enforcement. Amnesty for already convinced possessors is WAY down the road. The take away: The Senators understand that there is a high level of public interest in this issue. They are rhetorically committed to “doing it right” but Blair would not offer either a sense of who will comprise the legalization task force or what their time lines are likely to be.

Craig Jones

Petition hopes to exempt medical marijuana from sales taxes

A petition to the Minister of Finance is seeking to amend tax legislation to ensure medical marijuana is treated consistently with other medical necessities and is zero-rated, meaning that it would be exempt from sales tax. Interestingly enough, Canada’s tax act already excludes drugs obtained via prescription from being taxed at the point of sale, but this has not applied to medical marijuana.

The petition follows a letter-writing campaign started by Bedrocan, one of Canada’s medical marijuana licensed producers, to Canadian politicians asking them for sales taxes to be removed from medical marijuana entirely.

These efforts are in response to a January 2016 ruling by a Federal Court of Appeal asserting that the federal government had a right to collect sales tax on any marijuana that is sold. The judges ruled that only drugs that are sold legally can be exempted from GST.

Last September, Canada’s Revenue Agency, confirmed that the cost of medical marijuana could be claimed as a medical expense for income tax purposes. However, patients are still required to pay federal and provincial sales taxes.

If you wish to sign the online petition, please visit:

Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ

Shoppers Drug Mart Shows Interest in Selling Medical Cannabis

Canada’s largest drugstore chain has set its eyes on entering the medical marijuana sales landscape.

Over the last year, Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. has met with many licenced producers about carrying and distributing their products on store shelves, as well as having a generic line of medical cannabis produced that would be sold under the drugstore’s own brand.

Tammy Smitham, a spokeswoman for Shoppers, says that pharmacies are a logical option for selling the drug. “Pharmacists are medication experts and play a significant role in prescribing and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use.”

Shoppers is not the only drug store chain looking to the lucrative legal medical cannabis industry. Mark Gobuty, Chief Executive of Peace Naturals Projects Inc., one of the country’s 29 licenced producers, said that over the last six months, he has been approached by two of Canada’s largest pharmacy chains about potentially supplying product in their stores. “The stigma has come down significantly and you’ve got a delivery system now that doesn’t require smoking.”

Companies wishing to sell medical cannabis require a distribution licence from Health Canada, and under current regulations, product can only be purchased online and delivered via Canada Post. There is currently no regulatory regime for retail sales in storefronts, such as pharmacies or dispensaries. As the federal government designs the framework for legalization, changes to that legislation can be made.

Abigail Sampson, @HiHeidiHigh

Prize home pulled from lottery due to nearby legal medical marijuana garden

The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation has pulled a prize home in Markham from its lottery after discovering that a nearby homeowner has a Health Canada licence under the Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR) to grow medical marijuana for personal consumption.

The Foundation chose to replace the prize home with $1.3 million in cash in its charity lottery after hearing complaints about odours from neighbouring residents.

Under new rules that took effect on April 1, 2014, Health Canada no longer issues licences for allowing patients to grow their medicine at home. However, growers who received their residential licences before the change in legislation have been allowed to continue growing pot in homes, thanks to a federal court injunction.

Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ

Tweed readies for full legalization in new deal with Snoop Dogg

Tweed has been one of most the popular names within the medical marijuana market as Canada has switched to the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR). As the country is in the midst of yet another shift, Tweed is now seeking to distinguish its brand away from medical marijuana and towards a more recreational image.

Snoop Dogg, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, Jr. announced on Thursday that his company, LBC holdings, is giving Tweed Inc. exclusive rights to unspecified “content and brands” in exchange for cash and shares in a venture capital fund named Casa Verde Capital solely focused in the industry.

The deal with Tweed is valid for three years and may be renewed for another two at the end of that term.

“There are real social and medical benefits from the cannabis industry, and the world is seeing this positivity in a whole new way… Canada has been at the forefront of the business model, and I look forward to being a part of the road ahead,” Snoop Dogg said in a statement.

Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ