Health Canada has warned it will share with law enforcement the private information of citizens in lawful possession of medicinal marijuana unless they comply with a new order within six weeks’ time.
Today (March 14), the federal government posted a notice online stating that medicinal-marijuana licence holders are required to destroy all marijuana they have and provide written notice stating that they “no longer possess marijuana (dried marijuana, plants or seeds) obtained under the old program”.
“If participants do not comply with the requirement to notify Health Canada, the Department will notify law enforcement,” the release states.
Licence holders have until April 30, 2014, to meet the terms of the order.
Another Health Canada website provides vague details on the consequences of not complying with the new directive.
"The Department will take compliance and enforcement action," it states. "This includes informing law enforcement of your failure to notify Health Canada as required under section 259.3 of the MMPR. In addition, the Department will continue to cooperate with police, and provide information needed to protect public safety, as appropriate."
A “notification form” is available for download on the Health Canada website.
There are more than 16,500 British Columbians licensed to possess medicinal marijuana.
When the Conservatives’ new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulation takes effect on April 1, licence holders will only be allowed to purchase dried cannabis via mail order.
The Health Canada directive issued today—on a Friday afternoon when government officials know media outlets are least likely to report it—contradicts information included in a September 2013 briefing note prepared for B.C. Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton.
“Health Canada, citing privacy concerns, does not intend to disclose the addresses of former licensed grow operations once they are no longer permitted to legally grow marijuana,” that memo states.
It’s unclear what has changed that has led Health Canada to believe it can turn over the information of citizens licensed to possess medicinal marijuana without violating individuals’ privacy.
For months, Health Canada has refused the Georgia Straight’s repeated requests for an interview on the topic of the new rules governing medicinal marijuana. A message left today requesting clarification on the March 14 notice was not returned.
In a media release, Sensible B.C. campaign director Dana Larsen called for demonstrations against the Health Canada order.
“Patients across Canada registered with Health Canada in good faith, to protect themselves against arrest for cultivating their own medicine,” Larsen said in the release. “Now they are being threatened with police action if they don’t destroy their perfectly good medication.”
Sensible B.C. has scheduled a “day of action” in protest of Health Canada’s threat to share patients’ information. Events are planned for April 1.
“We are going to flood [Health Minister] Rona Ambrose’s office with thousands of phone calls and emails from our supporters, to let her know that the Canadian public won’t stand for these changes,” Larsen said. “With these unnecessary new rules, Health Canada is causing great harm to medical cannabis patients all across the country.”