Health Canada involved in growing, selling for medical uses; two plants result in charges
This photograph released by the RCMP shows outdoor marijuana plants seized by police in Richmond on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Two stories in the news this week seem to suggest a dichotomy in play. A Canadian Press story Sunday out of Ottawa says: “The (federal) Conservative government is launching a $1.3-billion free market in medical marijuana this Tuesday, eventually providing an expected 450,000 Canadians with quality weed.”
An RCMP release Wednesday datelined Albany, P.E.I. says: “On October 1, members of the Prince District JFO Drug Unit … executed a search warrant at a residence in Albany. Police seized a small indoor marijuana grow operation consisting of two plants, as well as a small quantity of dried marijuana. A 41-year-old male was arrested and later released and will be summoned to appear in Summerside Provincial Court at a later date to face production and possession charges.”
One wonders who should be summoned to face production and possession charges, but such is the confusion and contradictions surrounding Canada’s marijuana possession laws. It’s time the laws are finally modernized to decriminalize simple possession for personal use.
Health Canada is phasing out an older system that mostly relied on small-scale, homegrown medical marijuana of varying quality. In its place, large indoor marijuana farms certified by the RCMP and health inspectors will produce, package and distribute a range of standardized weed, all of it sold for whatever price the market will bear, delivered directly by secure courier.
Health Canada changes towards large-scale, free-market marijuana production comes as the federal Tories attack Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign to legalize recreational marijuana, and as Tory MPs jeer anyone who has admitted to taking a puff.
Health Canada supports the use of medical marijuana as an effective painkiller for a variety of ailments such as severe arthritis, nausea and chronic pain, as well as easing the horrible suffering of cancer patients.
There are currently 37,400 medical marijuana users recognized by the department, but officials project that number will swell more than ten-fold, to as many as 450,000 people by 2024.
The Canadian Press story says the profit potential is enormous. A gram of dried marijuana bud on the street sells for about $10 and Health Canada projects the legal weed will average about $7.60 next year, as producers set prices without interference from government.
Veterans Affairs Canada currently pays for medical marijuana for some Canadian Armed Forces patients too sick to work and who rely on welfare. Health Canada currently sells medical marijuana for $5 a gram, and agrees the new system will be more expensive for patients but hopes competition will help keep prices in check.
Patients must get a medical professional to prescribe medical marijuana using a government-approved form. This is based on court decisions from 2001 forward that support the rights of suffering patients.
On two previous occasions in the last decade, the federal government was on the verge of decriminalizing marijuana possession for personal use. On 27 May 2002, the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien introduced a bill that would have decriminalized possession for personal use of small amounts of cannabis. Possession of 15 grams or less would have been punishable only with a fine. Personal cultivation of up to seven plants would have also become a summary offence. The bill looked likely to pass into law, but it died when Parliament was prorogued.
An identical bill was introduced in November 2004 by the minority Liberal government of Paul Martin, but it too died when Martin’s government was defeated in a confidence vote.
So now we have a federal government department sanctioning over a billion dollars a year in medical marijuana growing operations across the country, while individuals face criminal charges for growing several plants. Does it make sense?