Vice Squad
Monday, January 26, 2004
Medical Marijuana

Although marijuana remains an illegal drug in Canada, on July 30, 2001, Canadian Narcotic Control Regulations were amended to create an exemption for certain individuals to use and possess marijuana for medicinal purposes. If someone qualifies for the medical exemption, they apply for an Authorization to Possess marijuana which is effective for 30 days. Qualified persons can also apply to grow their own supply, or have someone else grow it for them. The Office of Cannabis Medical Access administers the program.

Today, an article from the Edmonton Journal reports that Health Canada is now "strongly urging" those individuals permitted to use medical marijuana to consent to allow Health Canada to release their personal information to Canadian police.

Currently, individuals are not required to give this consent to receive a marijuana "license", but about 70% of registered users do so. Health Canada officials are being vague about whether or not they will begin to require individuals to sign the consent forms in order to receive a medical exemption.

The consent form allows Health Canada to confirm to police that the person is a licensed user and how much of the drug they can possess. The form also includes the start and expiration of the permit, the address of the exemptee, their date of birth and the production and storage location for the marijuana. However, according to the article, all of this information is already listed on the plastic wallet-sized cards Health Canada issues to licensed medicinal marijuana users.

Medical marijuana users are concerned that the consent forms will be misused by police to bully or harass them, or to raid their homes on the day that their licenses expire. One user made the point that the medical marijuana license is similar to a prescription for other medications, and users of other prescription medications do not have to preemptively disclose their prescription status to the police.

There are some benefits to the consent form. For example, if a neighbor complains to the police that the person next door is growing pot, the police would simply have to make a phone call to Health Canada to determine whether or not the person had a medical exemption to grow. However, with little additional cost, the police could also ascertain this information by dropping by the person's home and asking to see his or her license.

Given that the Canadian government has decided to treat marijuana as a legitimate form of medical treatment (at least for now), it doesn't make much sense to send mixed signals by requiring users of this medicine to be subjected to additional requirements to which legal users of other controlled substances are not.

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