Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Making hash of pot laws

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Making law has been compared to making sausage. If so, it could be said the Harper government could run seminars on the similarities, given the hash it has made of Canada's ill-advised medical marijuana legislation.

Five distinct court rulings have attacked federal marijuana laws. Four of those decisions have struck down various regulations of medical marijuana access and production. The last ruling, in 2011, found that requiring physicians to authorize medical marijuana for individuals effectively obstructed access, as few doctors felt they had the science to support prescribing marijuana.

There is lots of evidence that pot is as benign as alcohol, in wide legal use in Canada. But rather than accepting the obvious conclusion of that fact, the Harper government has devised yet another set of regulations to restrict the use of medical marijuana. Health Canada is getting out of the business of selling pot -- at $5 per gram, it amounted to an expensive subsidy, with fewer than 3,000 of the 22,000 authorized users buying from the government.

The new regime means the cost will soar for medical marijuana users, as pot will be grown and supplied by licensed factories and sellers. Users will be forbidden to grow their own. The government claims an unquantified risk of fire, mould infestation and the opportunity for gangs to prey on individual growers made homegrown pot unsafe.

But the new rules will not give reluctant physicians any more comfort on the efficacies or lack thereof in medical use of marijuana. Presumably to get around that, the federal government's rules, which come into effect March 31, allow a variety of practitioners to write what amounts to a prescription.

The more elegant and obvious fix to the plight of the chronically ill, of course, is the legalization of pot. Many thousands of recreational users regularly attest to the relative safety of the drug, as have successive studies.

This latest twist of unnecessary regulation simply contorts the parody of efficient regulation at a time when even governments in the United States are bowing to the obvious and decriminalizing simple possession. Canada's new laws, instead, will simply frustrate the chronically ill, who lose access to cheap, homegrown pot and force them to buy unnecessarily expensive, mass-produced factory weed.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 25, 2013 A6

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