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Editorial: Not Above The Law


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Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON) 
Published: Monday, August 09, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Ottawa Citizen
Contact: [email protected]

A marijuana grow-op in Smiths Falls has done all Canadians a favour by focusing a bright light on the federal government's flagrant violation of the rule of law in its handling of medical marijuana.

Last week, police raided Carasel Harvest Supply Corp., which operates in an old Canadian Tire building, after they learned (through media reports) that the company had started growing marijuana even though Health Canada hadn't given the company a licence yet.

Health Canada's refusal to give a licence to Carasel is now being challenged in the courts as an "unconstitutional barrier" to medicinal marijuana users. Right now, the health ministry will let an eligible sick person grow marijuana, and it will let that person designate someone else to grow marijuana on his or her behalf, but it won't let more than one user designate the same other person to do the growing. That means the only legal multiple-client grower is the government's single source in Flin Flon, whose product many users dismiss as ditchweed.

This policy is more than addled: it's unconstitutional. Last fall, the Ontario Court of Appeal struck down three Health Canada rules on marijuana-growing, including the no-multiple-customers one, on the grounds that they effectively forced many users to buy their medicine from drug dealers -- what the government called "unlicensed suppliers."

The rules, the court's three judges wrote, "create an alliance between the Government and the black market whereby the Government authorizes possession of marijuana for medical purposes and the black market supplies the necessary product."

Health Canada dropped two rules so users could now pay growers and the lowering the medical standards for some of them, but it decided to ignore the court's decision that said a grower should be able to supply more than one user. Spokeswoman Aggie Adamczyk says the regulators consider the court's order "useful guidance" and believe they're living up to the principles laid out by the judges.

It's hard to see how Health Canada can say that, as the court's decision was clear: Health Canada either had to scrap its whole regulation system and try again, or keep the existing system minus the three rules that were unconstitutional and "of no force and effect." The department decided to ignore the court, Ms. Adamczyk says, because growers working for more than one user might find ways to sell extra marijuana on the side, thus supplying the black market.

Health Canada doesn't get to follow the court orders it agrees with and skip the ones it doesn't: if you tried it, you'd go to jail. Besides, such doublethink disregards the whole basis of the judges' orders: that the old rules forced legal users to buy their medicine from drug dealers.

The volume of the supply aside, a single grower with a profit motive is easier to keep an eye on, and has a stronger incentive to comply with the rules, than a horde of amateurs with separate production costs to pay.

Canadians shouldn't have to wait for Carasel's case to wend its way through the court system before the federal government comes up with a marijuana policy that's both constitutional and coherent.

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