|Photo: CTV News|
|Samuel Mellace holds up the joint he smoked in Canada’s House of Commons on Parliment Hill in Ottawa, Monday, October 4.|
It smelled good in Canada’s Parliament on Monday. A medical marijuana patient lit up a joint in the House of Commons to protest what he called unfair rules set by Health Canada.
Samuel Mellace, who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, is a licensed cannabis user under the Canadian federal government’s medical marijuana program, reports Meagan Fitzpatrick of Postmedia News. He started smoking a joint Monday afternoon while in the public gallery of the House of Commons as the daily question period came to an end.
Mellace said he took “seven or eight” tokes on the joint before a security guard asked him to put it out and leave the gallery, which he did without incident. Mellace later told reporters that he left the House of his own volition and “was not escorted off the property,” reports CTV.
At a news conference on Parliament Hill a short time later, Mellace said he didn’t think there was anything wrong with taking his medication in the House of Commons.
Mellace’s complaints about Health Canada’s medical marijuana program are twofold: Delays in processing applications for licenses, and restrictions on how medical marijuana cards can be used.
According to Mellace, one of 5,000 Canadians who have permission from the federal government to use medical marijuana, licensed patients should be able to use their legal cannabis in creams or food, something that is prohibited by Health Canada’s regulations.
“Smoking marijuana is not the only way,” Mellace said. “There’s other methods; there’s people that cannot smoke it.”
Mellace said his wife is one of those people; she has lung cancer and can’t smoke marijuana.
“It’s ridiculous to think that I could go to jail for easing my wife’s suffering,” Mellace said.
He said his wife had to wait 10 months for her authorization to be renewed, despite submitting her paperwork eight weeks before the expiration date of her previous permit. Mellace said he could not give his wife medical marijuana during that time without facing a jail term because her authorization had expired.
Mellace owns a company, New Age Medical Solutions, which makes products containing marijuana extracts, including a hand lotion and a cannabis butter that can be used in baking and cooking.
The marijuana smoothies Mellace makes for his wife are technically illegal under Canadian law. Health Canada rules say that licensed users can only possess dried marijuana for medical purposes and that it cannot be processed into another substance. Doing so violates the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations and means the byproducts are considered “controlled substances” under Canada’s drug laws.
“Any activities that fall outside the MMAR is [sic]an enforcement issue and falls under the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies,” Health Canada said in a canned, poorly worded email response to questions from Postmedia.
There is a backlog in processing medical marijuana license applications, Health Canada acknowledges. Mellace and other patients and Monday’s news conference said the delays are punishing the sick.
If their license expires before it is renewed, patients said they risk either being caught and charged with drug offenses, or living in pain while they wait — sometimes for months — for a new license.
“Health Canada is currently experiencing a temporary delay in processing applications, due to a sharp rise in the number of applications received in recent months,” the department said.
It plans to process applications within eight to 10 weeks, and said it has implemented a strategy that it claims is already working to improve waiting times, Health Canada said.