By Korie Marshall

Health Canada announced it will fight the Federal Court’s injunction allowing users of medical marijuana to continue under the old regulations.

The new federal regulations for marijuana for medical purposes (MMPR) came into effect last year, but were running concurrently with the old Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR), which were to expire March 31st, 2014. The old program allowed patients to grow their own marijuana or have someone grow it for them, but these grow ops were not regulated, and the government and Health Canada claim the system was open to serious abuse.

The new MMPR program requires patients to purchase their marijuana from federally-licensed, commercial grow ops. BC lawyer John Conroy has challenged the new program saying it is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Conroy represents a group of medical marijuana users including Neil Allard, and he says under section seven of the Charter everyone who is medically approved to use cannabis has a right to reasonable access to it as a medicine for their health. Conroy and his clients claim the new MMPR will cause patients who cannot afford black market or licensed producer prices to have to choose between their liberty (being arrested and charged with production of marijuana) and their health (accessing the medicine that works best for their health).

A federal court judge granted Conroy and his clients an injunction on Friday, March 21, meaning roughly 40,000 Canadians would be allowed to continue to grow and use their own cannabis until the constitutional challenge can be heard in court.

But Health Canada announced on March 31 the federal government intends to appeal the federal court’s order in the Allard case.

Health Canada also stated it will “no longer be in the business of providing marijuana” after April 1, and will no longer be subsidizing marijuana use. It says it wants to remind Canadians that marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine, and Health Canada does not endorse its use.

Health Canada also announced on March 28 that “as a result of ongoing litigation and uncertainty arising from court decisions,” Health Canada will treat old licenses (Authorizations to Possess, Personal-Use Production Licences, and Designated-Person Production Licences) as extending beyond March 31, 2014 until a decision in the Allard case is made. It says the following criteria must be met – individuals must have held a valid Authorizations to Possess under the MMAR on March 21, 2014; and individuals must have held a valid Personal-Use Production Licence or Designated-Person Production Licence under the MMAR on, or after, September 30, 2013, where there is also an associated valid ATP as of March 21, 2014.