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Medical marijuana users can continue growing from home

Patients have argued the switchover to commercial producers is unconstitutional



Medical marijuana users will be permitted to continue growing pot at home after the Federal Court of Appeal upheld a decision last month that would exempt patients from a massive overhaul of Canada's cannabis laws.

Regulations introduced in 2013 shifted the production of medical marijuana to licensed commercial producers under Canada's new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), preventing users from growing cannabis at home, a move that is being challenged by a group of patients in a case that will be heard this year.

In March, home growers with a personal production license won a last-minute reprieve allowing them to continue growing their own pot at home until the case is resolved. Ottawa appealed, but the Appeal Court upheld the injunction in a unanimous decision Dec. 15.

It's another small win for the plaintiffs in the federal case who've filed a constitutional challenge arguing that forcing patients to source their pot from commercial producers violates their right to access essential medicine at an affordable rate. Most commercial producers list their cannabis at between $8 and $10 a gram, although prices can go as low as $2 and as high as $15. Many personal growers have been able to produce pot at between $1 and $4 cultivating at home.

"(You can't) expect patients to sit around and suspend their constitutional rights while waiting to see if the licensed producers can come up with a market they can afford," Abbortsford lawyer John Conroy told Pique in March. Conroy is leading the fight for medical marijuana users in the country, and sought the injunction to allow users to grow at home.

Patients have also complained about the lack of control they have over their preferred strains and a lowering of quality under the new rules compared to the old Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR).

"(Growers) are able to create genetics specifically for them that help their conditions that they may not be able to find again, or will have to go through that whole process of finding those genetics again through a licensed producer," one Sea to Sky home grower told Pique earlier.

The federal trial is set to begin in February.

There are currently 15 commercial producers licensed to grow medical marijuana throughout Canada, including the Whistler Medical Marijuana Company, operating out of a 10,800-square-foot facility in Function Junction.

"I can guarantee you that there are a number of Canadians who quietly cultivate a few marijuana plants and will continue to do so no matter what," said Whistler Medical Marijuana Company owner Chris Pelz.

"I believe that for those individuals who participated in the MMAR program and were granted a (personal production license), that they should continue to have the option to grow a limited number of plants," he added. "For everyone else, times have changed and we are now in the MMPR era."

Whistler officials have limited the production of medicinal pot to one facility in the community. Both Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and former fire chief Rob Whitton expressed concerns ahead of the ushering in of the MMPR last year over Health Canada's lack of resources to ensure that home-grow operations meet applicable safety standards if they are required to stop personal production.

There are 18 licensed home grow-ops in Whistler.


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