Ottawa will not appeal a judge’s order for the federal government to revise regulations that restrict access to medical marijuana.
“In the coming months, the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) will be amended to give effect to the Court's judgement,” reads a March 24 media release.
On February 24, a Federal Court judge ruled Canadians have a constitutional right to grow their own marijuana for medical purposes.
At issue was a provision in the former Conservative government’s MMPR that forbids patients from growing cannabis in their homes. The judge, the Hon. Michael Phelan, did not strike down the MMPR as a whole, but found that provision was unconstitutional. He therefore ordered the government to revise those regulations within a period of six months.
Today Health Canada said it will abide by that ruling and meet the court’s deadline of August 24.
The case was brought forward by four residents of British Columbia. It has been named the Allard decision, after Neil Allard, one of those plaintiffs and a resident of Nanaimo.
Lawyers for the four men argued they could not afford to pay for medicinal marijuana and therefore should be allowed to grow their own. The government maintained that allowing people to grow marijuana could harm those exposed to the plant and also pose security and fire risks.
The judge said the evidence proves those claims factually inaccurate; therefore, the Conservative government’s ban on patients growing medicinal marijuana was found to be an unreasonable barrier to access.
Ottawa’s decision not to appeal the judge’s decision means Health Canada must now amend the MMPR to make it easier and more affordable for people to access marijuana for medical purposes.
The media release issued by Health Canada emphasizes that until the rules are amended, patients (with the exception of those covered by an injunction) are still only allowed to obtain the drug from licensed producers via a mail-order system.
The release also mentions the new Liberal government’s plans to legalize recreational cannabis.
“Our government will be moving forward with the legalization, strict regulation and restriction of access to marijuana,” it reads. “In the near future, a Task Force will be established that will consult broadly with experts in public health, substance abuse and law enforcement in order to examine and report on all of the issues related to legalization.”