Justin Trudeau is unimpressed with the Harper government's approach to medical marijuana.
During an appearance at the University of Manitoba on Wednesday (October 9), he told the assembled crowd that he would like to see medical marijuana patients retain the ability to grow their own pot.
"The current approach is not working," the federal Liberal leader told the group after being asked what his stance was on medical marijuana and the rights of patients to grow their own supply.
Under the outgoing Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR), a person must apply for a permit to possess marijuana. If approved, they then have the options of either producing their own product or purchasing it from a licensed grower or Health Canada. But as of April 1, 2014, the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) will come into effect, and patients will only be able to obtain medical marijuana from licensed producers.
The federal government claims the MMPR will "provide access to quality-controlled marihuana for medical purposes, produced under secure and sanitary conditions". However, as it eliminates the ability for medical marijuana patients to grow their own pot, activist fear many people will no longer have access to specialized strains they have relied on. As well, dispensaries and many compassion clubs will have to close under the new rules, and there are fears the new system will increase prices.
"It's actually amazing to see the kinds of specialization and research that is beginning to be done into what strains actually address which problems very effectively in many, many cases," Trudeau said. "And our worries are that the current hypercontrolled approach around medical marijuana that actually removes from individuals the capacity to grow their own is not going in the right direction. It neither respects freedom or the kind of care that people need."
Trudeau advocated a legalization system similar to how alcohol is controlled in Canada. "If someone wants to brew their own beer or make their own wine, they're more than welcome to. But the vast majority of consumers are happy to go to a liquor store to purchase their alcohol because its of known quality. And the choices available to consumers and the knowledge of what it is that goes into what you're buying empowers consumers," he told the crowd.
"This is the kind of approach we need to take: one grounded in evidence, one grounded in science, one grounded in liberty."
While Trudeau stressed the need to protect the developing brains of teenagers from using marijuana ("like alcohol and cigarettes"), he reiterated that individuals should have freedom of choice when it comes to accessing medical marijuana.
"We don't need to be all nanny state about it the way Stephen Harper is with his prohibition," Trudeau said.