Jeff McKay has had a stressful eight months as he waits for Health Canada permit allowing him to possess and use an additional eight grams of marijuana to alleviate symptoms of HIV and Hepatitis C.
McKay, 37, of Guelph, already has a Health Canada permit allowing him to possess three grams of marijuana per day, which he takes to improve his appetite that he says has been drastically affected by HIV treatment, reports Thana Dharmarajah of the Guelph Mercury.
“Everything is riding on the balance of possessing that card,” McKay said. Following a doctor’s appointment in February, with a recommendation that he increase his daily intake of marijuana, McKay sent his application to Health Canada.
Seven months later, he is still waiting for his new permit.
Health Canada spokesperson Christelle Legault wrote in an email that there has been a temporary delay in processing applications because of “a sharp rise” in applications received in recent months.
New applications jumped from 253 in June 2009 to 515 in June 2010, according to Legault. This doesn’t include applications for renewals and amendments to permits.
“Applications respecting symptoms treated within the context of compassionate end-of-life care are treated immediately upon receipt,” Legault said.
Health Canada is working to return to a processing time of eight to 10 weeks, according to Legault.
Scott Gilbert, a Guelph resident who is authorized to cultivate for two medical marijuana users, including McKay, says any other prescription can be obtained through a local pharmacy within hours.
It takes four months to harvest a marijuana plant, according to Gilbert, which would mean McKay will have waited at least a year before he gets his medicine, Gilbert said.
McKay said he has lost 35 pounds in the past few months because of his poor appetite. He also said he is more stressed and doesn’t sleep as much.
“It is tearing up my life, waiting for this card,” he said.
McKay has called Health Canada at least 15 times in the last few months and has not been guaranteed a date for the arrival of his permit.
Health Canada still hasn’t specified when it might be able to shorten its processing times, according to Guelph MP Frank Valeriote.
“Our concern is that there are people who risk being criminalized… because of the failure of the government to provide adequate resources,” Valeriote said.
Possession and/or production of marijuana for medical purposes is only permitted with a valid license, according to Legault.
Valeriote said Guelph police told him that officers will ensure people have begun the proper paperwork to renew licenses before they consider laying any charges. He said he may raise the matter with his party’s health critic.