Court decision could have wide-ranging impact on nascent medical marijuana industry

A federal court has ruled that patients are allowed to grow their own medical marijuana

Canadians have a constitutionally protected right to grow their own marijuana for medical purposes, according to a federal court ruling that could have wide-reaching implications for Canada’s nascent medical marijuana industry, much of it in B.C.

In a ruling on issued Wednesday, judge Michael Phelan struck down Marijuana for Medical Purpose Regulations (MMPR), the rules introduced by the Conservatives in 2013 that sought to shepherd users into a mail-order system, and away from the old rules that permitted users to grow their own or designate someone else to. The decision gives the federal government six-months to change it current regulations so that patients will be allowed to grow at home.  

“Everything is really up for grabs,” says Trina Fraser, a lawyer at BrazeauSeller LLP. The government could ask for an extension of the mid-July deadline to impose new rules, which could allow it to “take its time” when mulling legalization, as Bill Blair, the MP tasked with heading up the marijuana file, posited in comments before a Senate hearing Wednesday morning.

“Expect the status quo for the next six months,” says David Hyde, a Toronto-based consultant who works with MMPR applicants on facility security, who says the decision has sparked a “temporary lull and a bit of dispondency in certain circles.”  He adds that it “it doesn’t support a continuation of MMAR program.”

The decision could however throw a wrench in Prime Minister Trudeau’s plans to legalize marijuana. “The federal and provincial task force on legalization is being still being organized” says Hyde, “I would not surprised now if there’s a slight delay as they devote resouces to understand the work required to address Allard decision.”

One of the issues at play in the case was access, and the court drew an explicit connection between the rules introduced by the Tories and the boom of dispensaries in Vancouver and Victoria. “Dispensaries are at the heart of cannabis access,” writes Phelan in his decision. “Current trends in dispensary growth suggest a connection between the restrictions to access under the MMPR and the need for patients to obtain their medical marihuana from illicit sources.”  The market was quick to react as the release of the decision kickstarted sell-off of nascent publicly traded marijuana stocks. Canopy Growth Corporation fell 9.21 per cent, Supreme Pharmaceuticals fell 11.7 per cent and THC Biomed—which received a licence to medical marijuana from the federal government earlier this week—fell 13.3 per cent. Overall, the composite for marijuana stocks was down 5.69 per cent as of press time.

VBOT asks for Uber
A report released Wednesday by the Vancouver Board of Trade has called on the provincial government to introduce regulations that would allow for Uber-like services across the province. Vancouver, the report states, is in desperate need of new and innovative transportation options. It also notes that the municipalities of Coquitlam, Langley Township and Port Coquitlam have all come out in favour of ride sharing in recent weeks. “It’s becoming clear that our residents want more transportation options, and as a result, so do municipal governments across the region,” says Iain Black, president and CEO of the Vancouver Board of Trade. “The time has come to modernize our provincial regulations, adapt to the changing world around us, and embrace innovative new transportation options such as ridesharing.”

Fare relief
B.C. Ferries is freezing its fares—for the time being. “For the first time in 13 years, the average fares will remain effectively unchanged as the company starts the new fiscal year on April 1,” reads the release from the crown corporation, which will increase fares by 1.9 per cent for passengers and vehicles but then add a 1.9 per cent fuel rebate. The cost relief comes thanks to a fall in fuel prices, according to B.C. Ferries chief financial officer Dennis Dodo.