A couple of issues ago I did an article about a Health Canada snafu where the federal ministry outed around 40,000 Canadians who are licensed to use and/or grow cannabis for medical purposes. While Health Canada chalked up the gaffe to administrative error, many people who are enrolled in the Marihuana Medical Access Program believe it was deliberately done by the federal government to intimidate them in advance of changes to the MMAP on April 1.
Currently, if you are licensed by Health Canada to use medicinal cannabis you are able to grow small quantities yourself, or purchase your medicine from a licensed grower who you know and trust. Come April 1, though, Canadians enrolled in the MMAP will no longer have those options. Instead, they’ll be required to destroy any dried cannabis (and plants) in their possession, and begin purchasing cannabis from one of a handful of large-scale growers Health Canada is in the process of licensing.
This is problematic for two reasons. First, when it comes to supplying good quality cannabis for medical purposes, Health Canada’s track record is ABYSMAL. Research in the medical cannabis community has shown that different strains impact on the body in different ways, and people who suffer from a wide variety of medical conditions need specific strains to receive the relief they’re seeking. If production of cannabis is reduced to a handful of large-scale, for profit growers, it’s unlikely that a similarly broad range of strains will be available.
Second, people who grow their own cannabis today are able to do so for pennies a gram. Under the new regulations, the feds have set the price at $7.60 per gram. When you consider that many people who are enrolled in the MMAP program suffer from significant health challenges that often prevent them from working and leave them dependent on social assistance the new regs will present a huge financial hurdle.
Take a guy like Carey Heilman, who is on long-term disability. Multiple times he’s petitioned the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board to cover the cost of his cannabis as it typically would for a medically required prescription drug. Heilman is under the care of a world-renown neurologist, and has been using cannabis safely for pain relief for over 10 years. Yet the WCB refuses to compensate him. In other provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Alberta, WCBs will cover the cost of cannabis for physician-approved treatment of injured workers. Veterans Affairs Canada also has a policy of paying for medical cannabis for former soldiers. Closer to home, SGI is also open to paying for cannabis that claimants use to treat injuries as long as the use is deemed medically appropriate.
According to Heilman, he’s tried to launch a complaint with the Ombudsman’s office arguing that in comparison to people who are dealing with other federal and provincial government agencies he (and others like him who are Saskatchewan WCB clients) are being treated unfairly. Thus far, though, he’s been unsuccessful.
The massive CLUSTERFUCK in this area is due in no small part to hysteria that has long existed in our society over the supposed perils of marijuana. Even today, the federal Conservatives delight in playing politics with the issue of whether marijuana should be decriminalized as has been done through referenda in Colorado and Washington State in 2012, and Uruguay through legislation passed in December. On Wednesday, in fact, Colorado saw the grand-opening of the first state-authorized shops selling marijuana for recreational use.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives don’t seem to be concerned about who gets caught in the cross-fire as they pander to their base with a law-and-order agenda that, in the case of marijuana, has been widely discredited — even in the United States, home of the original “War On Drugs”.
As you can see from the above poster, people who are currently using cannabis for medical purposes don’t intend to knuckle under without a fight when new MMAP regulations kick in. Will the police start raiding thousands of people’s homes come April 1 in search of contraband cannabis? Hopefully saner heads will prevail in the Harper government and at Health Canada. Hopefully.