March 2015 NORML Canada Newsletter
R v Smith
On March 20, 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments in R v Smith. The case was argued by NORML Canada’s BC Regional Director, Kirk Tousaw. This case concerns the constitutionality of Health Canada’s regulation preventing patients from accessing any type of cannabis other than “dried marihuana.” The rule forces medical cannabis patients to consume their medicine by smoking or vaporization while extracts, edibles, and topicals are illegal.
The case began when Owen Smith was arrested and charged, while working for the Cannabis Buyers Club of Canada, for producing baked goods containing cannabis butter. During his trial, Mr. Smith challenged the constitutionality of Health Canada’s regulation restricting patients to “dried marihuana.” The BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal found that the restriction violated patients’ liberty and security of the person interests under section 7 of the Charter and that the violation did not accord with the fundamental principle that a law not be arbitrary. A law is arbitrary if there is no connection between its effects and its purpose. If the objective of the law is public health and safety then preventing patients from turning “dried marihuana” into tea, baked goods, or extracts does not further that objective. The Supreme Court of Canada is now hearing the government’s appeal.
Medical Cannabis Covered by Insurance Company
University of Waterloo student, Jonathan Zaid, has been approved by his insurer for coverage of medical cannabis. Mr. Zaid uses medical cannabis to treat severe recurring migraines. He needs medical cannabis to concentrate on his studies. He has tried 48 different pharmaceuticals without success. The health insurance provider for the students at Waterloo is Sun Life who have agreed to cover the $30/day cost for Mr. Zaid’s medical cannabis as well as the cost of a vaporizer. Mr. Zaid had submitted a restricted drug use claim to the oversight committee asserting that the conventional treatments had been ineffective. The oversight committee included a doctor, representatives from the student unions, and the university’s health services department. The financial impact upon the plan was considered along with the impact upon Mr. Zaid. Sun Life released a statement: “Currently medical marijuana is not considered an eligible benefit in our standard drugs plans. We do consider, and where possible, accommodate requests for exceptions if directed by the plan sponsors.”
Veterans Turning to Medical Cannabis
Veterans are turning increasingly to medical cannabis in place of pharmaceuticals to treat chronic pain, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Canadian government paid $4.3 million in 2014 towards medical cannabis for 601 injured veterans. This represents a tenfold jump in costs over 2013. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious problem for veterans. According to the Department of National Defence, since 2004 more soldiers have died from suicide in Canada than died on the battlefield in Afghanistan. A New Brunswick group called Veterans Helping Veterans: Marijuana Trauma Inc. (http://mftgroup.ca) are veterans working to help other veterans seeking help accessing medical cannabis.
Senators Introduce Bill to Reclassify Marijuana in the United States
Rand Paul (Kentucky), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), and Cory Booker (New Jersey) introduced a bill earlier this month to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act in the United States.
The bill would move marijuana to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it would no longer be a criminalized substance and instead would be recognized as having medical uses in treatment in the United States. Currently, marijuana is grouped with other substances such as LSD and MDMA under schedule I. Under Schedule II, however, marijuana would be grouped with other substances like oxycodone and morphine.
Although marijuana has been legalized for medical purposes in over twenty states, a primary concern of doctors, patients, and other institutions is that federal law does not reflect marijuana’s legitimate medical use. NORML Canada sees this initiative as yet another small step in the right direction as the bill would remove the potential for federal prosecution of anyone using marijuana for medical purposes.
Nutritional High Becomes Canada’s First Publicly Traded Recreational Marijuana Company
Marijuana is not yet legal in Canada but it is now home to the first publicly traded recreational marijuana company. The Toronto-based company began trading earlier this month on the alternative Canadian Securities Exchange.
Nutritional High International Inc is primarily focused on working with products and brands in the marijuana-infused edible products and oil extracts sectors for medical as well as adult recreational use.
Due to the current regulations, the company operates exclusively in U.S. states where such activity is permitted and regulated by state law.
Charlo Greene’s Medical Marijuana Dispensary Raided by Police in Alaska
Police in Anchorage, Alaska raided Charlo Green’s medical marijuana dispensary earlier this month. Green is the former Alaska TV reporter who gained notoriety when she quit her job live on TV late last year with the infamous line: “Fuck it, I quit” and immediately announced she was going to advocate for legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Alaska.
“Police received reports of the illegal sale of marijuana and other derivatives at a location that’s been identified as the Alaska Cannabis Club,” the Anchorage Police Department said in a statement on its website. No arrests have been made or charges filed in connection with the raid.
Ironically, Alaska voters approved a ballot measure in November 2014 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. But it remains illegal to sell the drug for now while guidelines for the regulation of the marijuana trade are under consideration by the legislature in Alaska.