Less than two weeks before Health Canada’s newly introduced Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) came into effect, Federal Court Justice Michael Manson stepped in and issued an injunction against them. As of 1 April 2014, the MMPRs would have rendered personal growth and possession of medical marijuana with previously granted licenses illegal. As a result, patients who require medicinal marijuana for their ailments would have been compelled to obtain it from commercial producers, instead. The injunction, however, extends personal-use production licenses (PUPL) and slows the transition period from the former regulations to their replacements.
The court issued the injunction as a buffer, since there is a challenge to the new MMPRs awaiting trial. Objections to the new program center on their violation of rights–disallowing patients from growing their own marijuana, which is an inexpensive alternative to purchasing it from commercial producers. The ruling, however, does not affect the new licensing system and those companies that have obtained licenses will continue to establish themselves throughout the country in anticipation of the new regulations.
There is concern about the pace at which Health Canada is implementing the program, in addition to other worries that the new MMPRs will increase the price of medicinal marijuana. In an earlier blog, I discussed this issue in detail and concluded that ensuring that a competitive market for medicinal marijuana exists before introducing the new regulations was paramount. This would mitigate the likelihood of severe price fluctuations that would leave several patients in a position where they could not afford to purchase the drug legally.
Medicinal marijuana patients will benefit from the injunction–those who rely on their own production for financial reasons are most likely to suffer under the new regulatory framework. Furthermore, allotting more time to achieve efficient, safe, reliable, and competitive cultivation processes will ensure that prices stabilize quicker. The demand for medicinal marijuana is far greater than in previous years and, therefore, affording new producers additional time to meet that demand will ensure that they can do so without increasing prices dramatically.
In any case, the current debate has many facets. The ongoing lawsuit poses some very convincing arguments against Health Canada’s plan, which itself has powerful arguments for regulating the market. For now, however, the injunction is an appropriate course of action. It provides security for patients, while causing no harm to Health Canada or the licensed producers currently establishing themselves throughout Canada. Once the newly regulated market is better developed, those debating its efficacy can concentrate on serious issues, such as safety and criminal activity.
Rachel Lowe is a 2013-2014 Atlantic Institute for Market Studies’ Student Fellow. The views expressed are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the Institute