Canada Superior Court Judge Rules: Controlled Drugs and Substances Act Unconstitutional

Discussion in 'The Drug War Headline News' started by Monterey Bud, Jul 26, 2013.

  1. Monterey Bud Monterey Bud

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    7.26.2013

    On Tuesday night we learned that, because of the extreme difficulty involved in getting access to medical marijuana in Canada, an Ontario Superior Court judge had deemed provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that outlaw the possession and cultivation of pot unconstitutional, opening up the possibility of changes to the way Canadians use and acquire their weed. The federal government still has three months to appeal the ruling, so we won’t know the exact outcome, in all likelihood, for quite some time. But suppose Canada’s medical marijuana program were, as a result of all this, to become just about as liberalized as it could possibly get? What would that be like? For answers, we made some phone calls to California.

    California legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996, and in 2003 passed a second piece of legislation that established further protections for users and distributors. Whereas in Canada prospective medpot patients need to find a doctor willing to prescribe weed for one of a short list of Health Canada–approved diseases (or otherwise find a specialist who can vouch, in writing, for pot’s efficacy in treating a disease that isn’t listed), the standard for marijuana treatment, in the States, is a little looser.

    “The baseline is standard in all 15 states that have legalized medical use. It’s a recommendation from a physician,” says Kris Hermes, a spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access, a group that advocates for legal access to medical marijuana. “Under federal law, physicians cannot prescribe medical marijuana. However, they’re protected under the first amendment, interestingly enough, to be able to recommend it.”

    According to Hermes, one key difference between California’s laws and those of Canada—and even most of the 14 other U.S. states that have legalized medpot—is the lack of a firm registration requirement. Patients don’t need any kind of special dispensation from the state in order to use medical marijuana legally. California’s government requires counties to administer an ID-card program for users, but, for patients, getting the ID—a literal licence to smoke, complete with photo—is voluntary.

    As a result, doctors are the final arbiters of who gets to smoke and who doesn’t. There are now medical practices that do all or most of their business in marijuana consultations.

    Ezra Barth-Rogers is a manager at Compassionate Health Options, a clinic with locations in 11 California cities. “Most of our income comes from that service,” he tells me, referring to marijuana consultations—though he notes that CHO also provides basic checkups and counselling services.

    “Some doctors like to spend much longer with every patient than others,” he continues. “I would say the shortest visit, for something that’s very straightforward, and the doctor has either seen the patient before, or doesn’t feel like there’s a whole lot to talk about, would be 10 minutes. And the longest visit would be 45 minutes, maybe.”
    “We’re required to see people at least once a year. And we often see people two times a year. Usually not more than that.”

    The setup, according to Barth-Rogers, is similar to that of any community doctor’s office. There’s a waiting room, and a clipboard with a sheet of paper upon which patients record their medical history. The difference is that at the end, they get a slip of paper that entitles them to use pot. And to get that slip, their symptoms don’t have to be all that dire.

    “People can use cannabis for not only physical conditions, but also psychological conditions,” says Barth-Rogers. “A certain percentage of our patients come in for things like anxiety, insomnia. The whole gamut.”
    (For a better idea of the range of complaints that might get one a marijuana recommendation, take a look at this list from another health clinic. Testicular torsion?Eczema?)

    At Barth-Rogers’ clinics, consultations can cost anywhere from $90 to $150. They had to lower prices, recently, because of competition.

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