A shift in federal policy governing medical marijuana users will have an up side and down side, says a Kamloops lawyer.
Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq announced in B.C. on Sunday that Ottawa plans to end a Health Canada program allowing people with health conditions to grow pot in their own homes.
Aglukkaq said the current regulations have left the system open to abuse, causing great concern among law enforcement, fire officials and municipalities dealing with illegal grow-ops. By March 2014, only companies with strict security requirements will be licensed to grow and sell marijuana.
Lawyer Shawn Buckley, who represents local medical-pot advocate Carl Anderson, said Sunday's announcement came as no surprise since Ottawa had been planning to change the rules for some time.
The advantage of the new system is that it would enable better testing for chemicals that might be contained in pot that is grown in unregulated conditions, he said. Such a system would also allow production of cannabis of a more consistent and predictable quality.
The drawback of the new system is that prices will go up since government will no longer subsidize the cost of production. That will affect affordability for licensed users, many of whom live on fixed incomes or disability pensions.
"I'm not sure it's going to be resolved quickly."
He expects to see the new rules challenged under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Anderson said affordability is the biggest issue, but the new system will be exclusive to companies that can afford the investment and the high level of security required.
"They're going through all this to stop people from producing a God-given plant that provides a benefit to mankind," he said. "I don't think this is the way to go. It's basically going to force people back into the black market."
The government says the changes follow broad consultation. It's allowing 10 weeks for public comment. Anderson doubts that the government will respond meaningfully.
"They're going ahead with it, no matter what. I think this government is morally opposed to it and that's that."
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