Feds appeal ruling that gives medical marijuana growers a temporary reprieve
Published Monday, March 31, 2014 10:08AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 31, 2014 4:36PM EDT
The federal government has announced it intends to appeal a recent Federal Court order that allows thousands of patients to continue growing their own marijuana while patients challenge the government's plan to change the system.
Health Canada said in a brief statement Monday that it disagrees with the injunction the court issued earlier this month and will challenge it.
The injunction allows patients who are licensed to possess or grow medical marijuana to continue to grow their own pot while patients take the government to court over plans to overhaul the marijuana system.
That proceeding is expected to be scheduled within the next year.
Canada's medical marijuana system has allowed licensed patients to grow their own pot since 2001. But Health Canada has repeatedly said it does not endorse the use of marijuana.
In a statement Monday, Health Minister Rona Ambrose suggested that federal officials have only been running a medical pot program because the courts have said there must be reasonable access to the drug.
“I want to emphasize that marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada,” Ambrose said in the statement.
Health Canada says the medical marijuana program has been open to serious abuse and that the risks related to marijuana grow-ops, such as fires and crime, outweigh the patients' rights to grow their own pot.
Health Canada wants to bring in a new system to restrict medical marijuana production to licensed commercial producers only.
Patients are contesting those plans because they say the marijuana will become more expensive and they won't have as much control over which strains of the drug they use.
Patients say denying them the right to produce their own marijuana violates their Charter of Rights, but the government says the Constitution does ensure the right to produce medication for personal use.
Ambrose said she hears concerns from some health organizations about prescribing marijuana, and has asked Health Canada officials to produce a document on medicinal marijuana that will help doctors and nurses make informed decisions.
"We expect these new measures, including information on dosage guidelines, educational material and increased oversight, will decrease the potential for over-prescribing and negative health impacts," Health Canada said.
With files from The Canadian Press