Proposed Changes to Medical Marijuana Access Regulations Ignore Contribution of Compassion Clubs and Force Canada's Critically and Chronically Ill to Suffer Unnecessarily and to Risk Arrest for Accessing Medicine
March 22, 2004: Health Canada is currently drafting new regulations regarding the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) this month in response to a decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal that imposed specific remedies to restore the constitutionality of the MMAR.
Only five representatives from the medical cannabis community, arguably the key stakeholders in this program, were invited to attend a presentation of the proposed changes on Feb 18th in Ottawa. Philippe Lucas, who attended the meeting on behalf of Canadians for Safe Access (CSA), feels that these changes do not meet the needs of Canada's critically and chronically ill whom medical cannabis could benefit. "Any continued impediment to access will force thousands of citizens to either continue to suffer unnecessarily or to risk arrest for simply accessing their medicine."
The proposed changes to the MMAR do not include all of the Court's directives and are premised on the false assumptions that the personal use of cannabis will remain illegal, and that our international treaty obligations necessitate such an expensive and ineffective program.
Supply issues were not addressed in the plans presented to stakeholders. Compassion clubs are currently meeting the needs of thousands of Canadians who use cannabis as medicine, however the plans did not attempt to establish a relationship with these organization. The OCMA indicated a plan to eventually "fade-out" personal production and designated person licenses that are currently meet the need of medical cannabis users for control over the mode of production (organics vs. non-organics) and strain selection, and for minimizing the cost.
Of particular concern is the proposal for mandatory disclosure of information to police, which is discriminatory and a violation of privacy rights. In addition, Category 2 applicants, with conditions such as Hepatitis C, will continue to be required the consent of a specialist despite the fact that there is no valid medical reason for this imposition. Cost coverage was also not addressed. "HC must immediately establish affordability and cost coverage for all medicinal cannabis use and cultivation or it will force Canada's critically and chronically ill into poverty," states Lucas.
CSA has sent a summary of its concerns to the OCMA to Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew and deputy Minister of Health Ian Green (http://safeaccess.ca/pr/csapr13.htm) , urging them to address these in the drafting of a regulatory proposal this month. Representatives of medical cannabis users and compassion clubs who attended the meeting are concerned that Health Canada will continue to ignore their crucial input to this program.