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A Toronto-based not-for-profit medical cannabis dispensary has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court challenging Canada’s current medical cannabis access rules. The lawsuit alleges that the federal government is violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by unreasonably restricting patient access to medical cannabis (marijuana). The lawsuit argues that the federal government’s system (called the ACMPR) does not provide critically and chronically ill Canadians with “reasonable access” to medical cannabis and medical cannabis derivative products.

The ACMPR came into effect in August 2016 because of a Federal Court of Canada decision finding that the former regulations (the MMPR) were constitutionally invalid and violated the Charter. Justice Phelan of the Federal Court declared in Allard v Canada that the MMPR was invalid. His ruling touched on storefront medical cannabis outlets, stating that dispensaries were at the “heart of access” for patients.

The ACMPR was the federal government’s response. According to the allegations in the lawsuit, however, the ACMPR failed to include dispensary access and continues to pose unreasonable obstacles to patients obtaining medicine. The ACMPR only allows for limited access by way of either growing it for oneself, having a designated person grow it for the patient or by purchasing it via mail-order from a small group of officially licensed government suppliers known as LPs (Licensed Producers).

The lawsuit alleges that the LP system is plagued with problems, including supply shortages, lack of physician participation, inadequate choice of derivative cannabis medicines, recalls of product for mould and other contaminants, and restrictive rules on changing suppliers and how medicine is obtained.

“My client is seeking a declaration that the ACMPR and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act prohibition on supplying medical consumers with cannabis infringes the Charter,” asserted Kirk Tousaw, counsel to the Plaintiff and a long-time advocate for access to medical cannabis. “Cannabis patients in this country deserve to be able to easily obtain medicine without the obstacles that prohibition and the overly-restrictive government program create,” continued Tousaw, “And no Canadian should face the prospect of being jailed for helping sick people access this safe and effective natural health product.”

Raids on dispensaries have become increasingly common as more storefront locations open throughout Canada. “Patients have voted with their feet and their wallets,” said Tousaw. “Patients need and want dispensary access, and people have been successfully helping patients in the dispensary model for almost twenty years,” he continued. “The Courts, and dispensaries have repeatedly urged the federal government to enact regulations and bring this vital service out of the shadows and into the light. It is far past time that we stopped using the criminal law to prevent access to cannabis medicine.”