|Photo: Matt Mernagh|
|Canadian medical marijuana patient and Toke of the Town contributor Matt Mernagh won big this week, with an Ontario judge striking down Canada’s pot laws|
An appeal by the federal government of yesterday’s Ontario court decision striking down Canada’s marijuana laws is all but certain, according to political observers.
The government is now awaiting direction from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, reports Jennifer Yang at the Toronto Star. Lawmakers and law enforcement officers are “looking for guidance” on how to react to the court ruling.
“We are disappointed with this decision,” said Tim Vail, spokesperson for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. “The independent Public Prosecution Service has to decide whether to appeal this decision. While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion to ensure public safety.”
The Public Prosecution service is “studying” the decision and has 30 days to appeal the ruling, which it is expected to do.
In the meantime, Ontario Provincial Police will continue to enforce the marijuana laws, even though they could soon cease to exist.
|Photo: Queen’s University|
|Law Professor Nick Bala, Queen’s University: “This could be in the courts for years”|
”This could be before the courts for years,” said Nick Bala, a law professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario — and also a medical marijuana and chemotherapy patient. “It may have to go to a higher level of court,” he said, report Bradley Bouzane and Jordan Press at Postmedia News.
“I certainly hope we’re moving to the day when people who have a prescription can get access to medical marijuana,” Bala 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 that the rules which govern medical marijuana access — and the prohibitions in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act — “constitutionally invalid and of no force and effect,” paving the way for possible legalization of cannabis.
Another eventual possible outcome of the ruling would be greatly expanded access to medical marijuana by patients who could benefit from using it.
The ruling was made largely because of the difficulty often experienced by patients with qualifying conditions in getting a doctor to prescribe marijuana for them, and difficulty in safely accessing cannabis once it is prescribed.
Justice Donald Taliano’s ruling was based on findings that Canadian doctors have “massively boycotted” the medical marijuana program. Patients seeking a license to buy or grow marijuana for medical purposes must first find a doctor to support their application, a near-impossible task that forces sick people to resort to illegal measures, according to the ruling.
“I know most of my colleagues would refuse to touch it,” said Toronto family physician Dr. Tsvi Gallant. “A lot of family physicians will not even want to deal with it in the first place.
According to Dr. Gallant, most physicians are uneducated about the medicinal properties of cannabis, and are mostly discouraged by their professional associations from participating in the government program.
|Photo: Matt Mernagh|
|Matt Mernagh: “It feels like we won the Stanley Cup and brought it home”|
If the government does not respond within 90 days with a successful delay or re-regulation of cannabis, it will become legal to possess and grow in Ontario, where the decision is binding.
The ruling stemmed from the constitutional challenge mounted by Toke of the Town contributor Matt Mernagh, who relies on medical marijuana to ease the pain of fibromyalgia, scoliosis, seizures and depression.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mernagh told The Globe and Mail, reports Adrian Morrow. “It feels like we won the Stanley Cup and brought it home. We’re all just sitting here, awestruck.”
But while Matt is free to partake immediately, the rest of the ruling will not come into effect for three months, leaving other patients without licenses to wait and see whether the government will appeal the ruling or re-tool the medical marijuana program.
The Ontario Court of Appeal had previously ruled 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 Canadian federal government created Marijuana Medical Access Regulations to provide a legal avenue for patients to get, possess and grow cannabis if they have a license supported by a medical doctor.
Health Canada regulates and approves the growers from whom patients can buy, and how much marijuana patients are allowed to use for their treatment.
More than 9,800 Canadians are legally permitted to possess medical marijuana as of April 1, according to Health Canada. Almost 5,600 people hold licenses to grow for themselves, and 1,837 have a license to grow for one other person.
Taliano wrote in his Monday decision that Mernagh — a well-known marijuana activist who has been charged for its possession and cultivation many times — has been unable to get a doctor to sign off on a medical marijuana license. Other patients run into the same problem, the judge noted in his ruling, and that forces some seriously ill people to buy black market cannabis.