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Ottawa Wants Appeal Of Medical Marijuana Ruling Allowing More Suppliers

Herb Fellow

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TORONTO - Ottawa is asking for an appeal of a Federal Court decision that struck down a key restriction in the government's controversial medical marijuana program.

The Jan. 10 decision allowed growers to supply medical marijuana to more than one patient, effectively loosening the government's tight grip on accessing the drug.

The court erred in concluding that a restriction preventing growers from supplying the drug to one person is unconstitutional, the Department of Justice said in court documents filed Jan. 31.

Justice Barry Strayer also erred in concluding that the provision was forcing medical users to obtain the drug on the black market, the documents state.

Prior to the January ruling, medical users could grow their own pot, but growers like Carasel Harvest Supply Corp. couldn't supply the drug to more than one user at a time.

The federal government is seeking that the Jan. 10 judgment be set aside and that it be awarded legal costs.

Lawyers representing medical users, who considered the Jan. 10 decision a victory, also filed for a cross-appeal of the ruling.

They say the court should be monitoring the federal government to ensure it's not unfairly restricting access to the drug by denying licences to growers who want to produce medical pot for a number of users.

Strayer erred in not requiring the court to "retain ongoing supervisory jurisdiction" over Health Canada or order the government to periodically report back to the court on its progress, according to a court document filed Tuesday by Toronto lawyer Ron Marzel.

"The record before the court contained ample evidence that the government of Canada, the minister of health and Health Canada have, since 1999, delayed and frustrated reasonable access to medical cannabis," the document states.

Lawyers for medical users had argued that the restriction preventing growers from producing medical pot for more than one person at a time effectively established Health Canada as the country's sole legal provider.

They said the restriction was unfair and prevented seriously ill Canadians from obtaining the drug they need to treat their debilitating illnesses.

The provision had been struck down by the courts before, but was reinstated by the government which contracted Prairie Plant Systems Inc. in Flin Flon, Man., to grow the drug for patients.

Previous governments have been uncomfortable with their role as a cannabis supplier. Former Liberal health minister Anne McLellan, an unabashed opponent of the program, was reluctant to provide the drug to patients.

Lawyers representing medical users have accused Ottawa of trying to buy time until pharmaceutical companies come up with marijuana products, so it can wash its hands of the program.

The case challenging the restriction began in 2004 and was heard before the Federal Court in December.

No date has been set for the court to hear the appeal and cross-appeal.

Source: The Canadian Press
Copyright: 2008, The Canadian Press
Contact: Staff
Website: The Canadian Press: Ottawa wants appeal of medical marijuana ruling allowing more suppliers
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