Proposed changes to Canada’s medical marijuana laws are going to skyrocket the price of medicinal pot and drive licensed users to the criminal drug market, a local grower says.
Health Canada, which oversees the medical marijuana program, plans to phase out licences for patients to grow marijuana in their homes amid complaints from law enforcement, fire officials, municipalities and physicians that the system is being abused and creates public health and safety risks.
The ministry plans to have patients buy dried marijuana from licensed commercial producers.
“How am I supposed to afford the price of that medication?” asked Keene farmer Gerard Faux, who has had a licence to grow medical marijuana since 2008 to treat arthritis.
Faux, who puts marijuana in baked goods and consumes 15 grams a day or more, said commercializing medical pot will make it unaffordable, particularly for people on disability. Many users will be forced to purchase marijuana illegally, he predicted.
“It’s ridiculous. The grower can charge what he wants and then there will be tax on top of that. It’s going to be prohibitive,” Faux said.
Heath Canada refused to make a spokesperson available for comment, but did respond to questions via email.
Health Canada met with more than 70 potential licensed producers, spokesman Stephane Shank said in an email. Pricing will be set by licenced producers within the established, competitive marketplace, he said.
“It is not known at this time what the cost of marijuana for medical purposes will be under the proposed new framework,” Shank wrote. “Licensed producers would be responsible for setting their own prices. The creation of a new supply and distribution system would significantly reduce the risks associated with the production of marijuana by program participants in their own homes and communities.”
Faux admits there have been bad apples and criminal elements that have taken advantage of personal grow-op licences, but he said most growers have licensed electricians build safe indoor growing facilities.
Other proposed changes to the medical marijuana rules include:
• The elimination of categories of conditions or symptoms for which an individual may possess marijuana for medical purposes.
• Since categories would be eliminated, there would no longer be a requirement for some individuals to obtain the support of a specialist in addition to their family doctor to access medical marijuana.
• Individuals would no longer be required to submit information to Health Canada. Instead, they would submit their physician's document directly to a licensed commercial producer.
• Licensed commercial producers would be able to produce any strain of marijuana, giving individuals greater choice as to which strains they wish to use.
Taking the red tape out of medical marijuana authorization is a good plan, Faux said, but it won’t make a difference if users can’t afford the final product.
There are more than 15,000 licensed medical marijuana users in Canada. The government isn't expected to unveil the new medical marijuana rules until 2014.
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Author: Galen Eagle
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