Health Canada BuildingIn another dramatic and provocative move by Health Canada, a Section 56 exemption was issued to all medically qualified persons under the Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR) injunction and Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) to address the recent R. v. Smith ruling.

The medical cannabis extracts exemption has drawn some serious criticism from patients and patients’ rights groups alike. The Cannabis Rights Coalition and our lead attorney John W. Conroy, Q.C., remain perplexed by the federal government’s continued attempts to restrict patients’ constitutional rights to reasonably access medical cannabis in Canada. Health Canada’s solution/reaction arising from the Supreme Court’s landmark Smith decision to allow extracts to those permitted to obtain medical cannabis under the MMPR is to demand patients adhere to a Section 56 exemption that is restricted to only a few forms of cannabis. The SCC clearly stated that medical patients have a constitutional right to use all forms of marihuana, which is a far cry from the restrictive nature of the exemption issued on July 7th, 2015.

The Cannabis Rights Coalition holds a strong position on extracts, which respects the SCC decision in R. v. Smith. We advise all of our members to follow R. v. Smith and the country’s highest judiciary in dismissing the Section 56 restrictive exemption, which has terrified patients and suppliers across the country, exempting all medically qualified persons under the MMAR and MMPR from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).

The restrictive nature of the exemption is notable in the following addendum in Terms and Conditions clause 6, which demands:

An authorized person who holds a designated-person production licence must, when sending or transporting fresh marihuana or a product described in paragraph (c) above from the site specified in the licence where dried marihuana may be kept to the place of residence of the person who holds the authorization to possess on the basis of which the licence was issued, must:

  • a. send or transport the marihuana or product directly from the site to the place of residence; and
  • b. comply with the obligations set out in subsection 34(1.1) of the MMAR, as that subsection read immediately before those Regulations were repealed.

In reference to part b., how do medical patients comply with a regulation that remains repealed? Again, this is an exemption from the CDSA not legislation that the CDSA can be applied to. The fearmongering tactics like Section 56 force Canadian patients to believe they could face persecution over arbitrary exemptions, which is simply not the case. It bears repeating that he CRC strongly advocates that all legally medically qualified persons are fully protected by the SCC decision in R. v. Smith. Canada holds the constitution over any and all other policy, exemption, or law. We remain a free and democratic society bound to the constitutional doctrine.

For this reason I urge the federal government to end their policy of restricting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Health Canada’s decade-old battle with medical patients in federal court has cost Canada enormous amounts of money and time. At what point does the Canadian public say enough is enough?

It’s time for real change in Canada and real policy reform, which could start with Rona Ambrose stepping down as Health Minister as she clearly continues to allow arbitrary barriers to access of medicine. If you legislate in the same manner as the recent exemption, Health Canada will once again face a constitutional challenge over Section 7 and Section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Canada. Patients should never have to make a fundamental decision between their liberty and their health.

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