Lawyer says Federal Government May Eliminate Medical System With Legalization

In a Maclean’s interview, lawyer Adam Goldenberg argued that the government’s current plan to legalize the recreational use of cannabis may mean the current medical regime is swept aside.

Goldenberg said the court decisions that necessitated the creation of a federal medical cannabis system in the early 2000s are all based on the assumption that the substance is illegal.

“Once you have the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, the legal basis for that constitutional requirement basically disappears and so it’s very possible that the government will look at that situation and say ‘why would we bear the expense of maintaining two separate regulatory regimes when we’re not legally required to?’ Goldenberg said.

The lawyer said there may be reasons why the government would decide to maintain both systems — such as dealing with the insurability of medical cannabis, how the different products might be taxed and production standards but, he said from a simple legal standpoint, as long as people who need medical cannabis can reasonably have access, there’s no obligation for the federal government keep both systems.

Goldenberg said any patients that fall outside of the recreational system (such as those underage or those that require a potency unavailable on the recreational market) could be given special permission and access, but it could still be done within the scope of a single regulatory system.

He said that it’s a fair guess that, eventually, medical cannabis will be rolled into the existing system of pharmaceutical drugs prescribed today and be treated like any other product dispensed at a drug store.

“The science that would be required to get there isn’t quite where it needs to be,” he said. “So, for the moment, there is going to be a distinction between pharmaceutical products on the one hand and medical marijuana on the other.”

He said research is at a rudimentary state in terms of figuring out what cannabis does for a medical patient.

“We know that it has immunity effects and prophylactic effects and other, positive, health benefits for a lot of people but medical science hasn’t quite caught up to where it is, say, for the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.” So, we’re in a bit of a middle ground with medical marijuana in the first place.”

When asked if the elimination of the medical regime would mean licensed producers are also phased out, Goldenberg said the argument may be to allow these operations to convert to recreational sales.

Goldenberg said after Colorado legalized cannabis for recreational use, the state allowed medical producers to supply the new market, reducing shortages in product seen in states like Washington.

“My guess is they’re going to look at Colorado and say ‘giving these licensed producers that are already in business the immediate bite at the apple might not be the way that things stay for ever but, at least initially, it will allow the recreational legalization process to unfold quickly and efficiently,’” Goldenberg said.