Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 was a monumental day in Canadian cannabis action with the long-awaited decision in the Allard case. It was a fight that saw medical marijuana users taking the Canadian government to court for around the tenth time in fourteen years, and each time part or all of the medical marijuana program has been found unconstitutional. This time the fight was over the right of patients to grow their own marijuana or have a designated grower rather than be forced to buy it from a small handful of government-sanctioned Licensed Producers.
Why is the law against personal growing wrong?
BC Supreme court judge Phelan (pronounced “fail-in”) did not fail in his duties, and gave a very clear breakdown of the reasons for his decision. Some highlights are where he ripped to shreds — almost to the point of calling them liars — Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis and the government’s, and I quote, “key so-called ‘expert’ witness” Corporal Shane Holmquist, a member of the RCMP’s Coordinated Marijuana Enforcement Team:
Holmquist was the most egregious example of the so-called expert discussed earlier in paragraph 101. He was shown, in cross-examination, to be so philosophically against marihuana in any form or use that his Report lacked balance and objectivity. He possessed none of the qualifications of the usual expert witness. His assumptions and analysis were shown to be flawed. His methodologies were not shown to be accepted by those working in his field. The factual basis of his various opinions was uncovered as inaccurate. I can give this evidence little or no weight.
Read the full decision here.
What does all this mean for medical users?
The judge did give the government six months to fix things, but we didn’t get to where we are today by waiting. Marijuana has been, and for the most part still is, illegal in Canada — that hasn’t stopped tens of thousands from using, growing or selling it, and these words on paper empower us even more.
I don’t think an attorney in this country will prosecute a medical user for growing ten or fewer plants anymore, unless there are other crimes being committed such as dealing or stealing hydroelectricity. The old saying comes to mind, “you’ve got to make hay when the sun shines,” and I don’t see any reason why any medical user should need approval from the government at this point to grow a few plants.
Without a doubt, the Allard decision will give medical users in this country the confidence boost to start a small garden or, for many, the incentive to resume growing. Don’t wait six months for the government to dole out some type of permission slip, plant your seeds as soon as the weather permits and the last frost is gone. As activists we don’t ask for permission, and for over a dozen years if you’ve been a medical user in Canada you fall into that group, intentionally or not.
The best case scenario is that the government fails to fix the problem in the six months of allotted time and all cannabis laws fall in Canada, but I doubt this will happen. More likely the government will ask for more time to get a working program in place. But what do they really have to do other than rubber stamp those permission slips? Medical marijuana is a conversation between you and your doctor, that’s it. If your doctor agrees that you might benefit from cannabis, that’s all you need in my opinion — get growing.
And what does all this mean for legalization?
I see at least one key non-medical points that will come from this: once recreational marijuana is legal, some of those users will want the right to grow a few plants themselves as well, and why shouldn’t they?
The final arguments for keeping marijuana cultivation illegal have been blown away with the cultivation evidence in Allard, recreational marijuana is widely accepted, and the government has said they will legalize the plant. So what’s the hold up?
Oh yeah, the kids. We can’t risk the kids getting it — when in fact the kids already have it and have had it for a long time.
Governments have always done a terrible job of keeping liquor away from teens, and then there’s the problems with teenage binge drinking. It’s laughable when they say they need to be in control to keep marijuana away from kids.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are acting like legalizing a plant is some kind of difficult intense struggle needing more studies. But we already have the 2002 Senate report and even the 1970 Le Dain commission, some highlights of that here, both of which are valid and respected studies that show only a very small risk to children, teens, adults, or the community at large. In fact in Washington and Colorado, where marijuana prohibition has been repealed, crime stats have gone down. And let’s not forget that violent crime is at an all-time low in Canada right now.
The real reason for the delay, I feel, is money. They bring out “the kids” as a last excuse till they can find a way to wipe out all those dispensaries, and long-time growers and breeders, to get a stranglehold on the industry we created. Why else is an ex-cop and ex-Police Chief — new MP Bill Blair — in charge of spearheading marijuana legalization? There is no other reason I can see except control through over-regulation, control that is still keeping the confusion around legalizing cannabis alive.
Nowadays “free the weed” has taken on a whole new meaning.