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Cannabis activist Alison Myrden uses a marijuana vaporizer as she takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 1, 2014, to protest the government's new Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. Myrden suffers from chronic progressive multiple sclerosis. (SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Cannabis activist Alison Myrden uses a marijuana vaporizer as she takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 1, 2014, to protest the government's new Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. Myrden suffers from chronic progressive multiple sclerosis. (SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Globe editorial

New pot regime is going to pot Add to ...

When Ottawa announced a way to produce and distribute medical marijuana, it cited several good reasons for doing so. Health Canada argued that a new system would make high-quality medical cannabis more accessible to those who need it. The process would be less onerous for patients, and the product less costly and less susceptible to crime.

But the orderly new regime that was supposed to emerge on April 1 has so far turned out to be nothing more than a figment of Health Canada’s imagination. For patients, producers and doctors, confusion reigns. Among the barriers standing in Ottawa’s way is a court injunction upholding the status quo, by allowing patients to continue growing their own medical marijuana. The government was planning on ending the legalization of home-grown pot for approved medical users, and turning the production of the only legal pot in the country over to a group of government-licensed grow ops. The temporary injunction stops that. Some patients are also planning a broader constitutional challenge, arguing that the new system will drive up costs and reduce access.

They don’t buy Ottawa’s argument that continuing to allow medical marijuana patients to grow small amounts of marijuana at home poses health hazards from mould to the threat of home invasion. For them, what matters more is the bottom line. Pot can be grown at home for pennies a gram, while Health Canada’s official suppliers charge anywhere from $3 to as much as $13.50.

For producers, there’s a different problem. The court injunction means that after investing millions of dollars in machinery and security in anticipation of April 1, they now may have no customers. Doctors are also distancing themselves from changes to the status quo. Many feel uncomfortable prescribing a substance that has not been subject to the same clinical trials and approvals process as pharmaceuticals. Instead of taking these concerns seriously, Health Canada until recently essentially ignored them.

April 1 was supposed to mark the beginning of a new era for medicinal marijuana in Canada. Instead, uncertainty and confusion mean the new rules are having the exact opposite of their intended effect. Many patients don’t want to be forced to buy the cannabis the licensed producers are peddling; pot growers are out of pocket because of a court injunction; doctors responsible for authorizing the use of medical marijuana are wary of doing so. Health Canada’s big plan is going up in smoke.

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