By Daniel Shortt
A landmark decision in Canada has drastically altered the country’s medical marijuana laws. A Canadian federal court ruled that Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives medical marijuana patients the right to grow their own cannabis. The opinion strikes down the previous Conservative government’s ban on patient’s growing marijuana and gives the current liberal government six months to establish a new medical marijuana program.
Judge Micheal L. Phelan authored the opinion, writing that “[t]he evidence at trial failed to show that public safety will be advanced in any significant way by the removal of the ability to lawfully and safely continue to personally produce medical cannabis.” Judge Phelan’s opinion stated that the current prohibition was overly broad, not supported by compelling evidence and infringed on patients’ liberty by leaving them under the threat of criminal prosecution.
The Conserative party’s plan that used a mail-order system to deliver medical marijuana was deemed insufficient even. The Court was not moved by the government’s arguments that the mail-order system was safer because the potential risk of unsafe home grow-ops. Judge Phelan wrote, “[t]he access restrictions did not prove to reduce risk to health and safety or to improve access to marihuana – the purported objectives of the regulation.”
Lawyers representing the patients who challenged the law called this a total victory. The New York Times reports that many patients, including those in this suit, found Canada’s system denied them access to particularly effective strains of marijuana and were concerned about the cost of marijuana from the new companies.
The ball is now in Justin Truedeau’s court. His administration has sixth months to revamp Canada’s medical marijuana program. The Liberal Prime Minister campaigned on a promise to legalize marijuana in Canada. This is his first major opportunity to address Canadian marijuana on a major scale.
The issue of home grown marijuana has been hotly contested in the United States. For example, Washington State does not allow it at all for recreational marijuana while Oregon does. Proponents for “home grows” likely see this case as a huge victory. Although Canadian court decisions do not hold precedent in the U.S., the new regime may provide a workable example for states looking to legalize in the future.