Those in the medical cannabis community, both as patients and advocates, have spent insurmountable amounts of energy battling the regulatory incompetence of Health Canada. Jason Wilcox and the Cannabis Rights Coalition have dedicated their every minute to the fight. Putting aside their perpetuation of prohibition and their support of an LP-model/cartel, Health Canada continually fails in regulating and administrating access to our medicine. This week, their incompetence was reiterated and sanctioned by the Federal Court of Canada, who certified a class action lawsuit on behalf of medical cannabis licensees alleging that the government agency violated their privacy.
According to the representatives for the class action, “On November 19, 2013, Health Canada mailed letters to 41,514 clients of the Marihuana Medical Access Program [MMAP] across Canada to advise of changes to the Program commencing on April 1, 2014. The windowed envelope containing the letter explicitly identified the ‘Marihuana Medical Access Program’ in the return address on the outside along with the name and address of the client recipient.”
So, well aware of the stigma attached to medical cannabis use, Health Canada, an agency who should know as well as any the importance of privacy, “outed” over 40000 patients in what was either an example of gross incompetence or adversarial negligence. George Da Pont, deputy minister at Health Canada, acknowledged the failings of the agency: “I have been advised that as the result of an administrative error the envelopes were labelled to indicate that they were sent by the Program. This is not standard Health Canada practice […] We are in discussion with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.”
Interestingly, the letters contained guidelines for the licensees, which included warning of “the risks of violent home invasion” as a result of knowingly being in possession of cannabis as part of the program. Health Canada, always holding a shovel and willing to dig a deeper grave, argued that the licensees’ information would inevitably be public, and that they were partly to blame as some took their story to the media.
According to Vice, “Over 1,500 people reported to the database that someone had discovered they were in the program because of the letters. About 1,000 said that discovery had an impact on their reputation, with 391 saying that they moved or attempted to move, 297 that their employment had been affected, and 241 that they had been the victims of a home invasion or security breach.” The plaintiffs are seeking damages for breach of contract and confidence, invasion of privacy, and Charter violations.
Branch MacMaster LLP, one of the representatives in the suit, notes importantly that, “Prior to November 2013, all correspondence from Health Canada to holders of medical marijuana authorizations and licenses in relation to MMAP was conveyed by a private courier in envelopes that did not include the word ‘marihuana’.” A government agency that would oversee such a flawed policy change is not one that any Canadian should be comfortable with administering their healthcare, regardless of their feelings about cannabis.
In a year that has seen the Canadian judiciary continually side with common sense and constitutional law in the fight to end prohibition and return the plants to the people, this is yet another decision that sheds light on the gross incompetence of the Canadian government’s ability to understand and regulate our medicine. From unsafe products to a lack of access to an LP-monopoly model to repeated Charter violations, Health Canada has proven that they are either incapable or unwilling to efficiently and fairly provide medicine to Canadians in need. How much more can we take? How many more failures can Minister Rona Ambrose preside over? At what point does the government admit their prejudice has affected their governance? It’s time that medical cannabis in Canada was simply returned to those who can manage it best: the people.