Medical pot court challenge led by Abbotsford lawyer is underway

John Conroy representing patients in federal challenge

A court case on whether users of medicinal marijuana should be able to grow pot at home

A court case on whether users of medicinal marijuana should be able to grow pot at home

A constitutional challenge of Canada’s new medical marijuana laws – led by Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy – started in Vancouver on Monday.

Conroy is representing patients who grow their own medical marijuana and are challenging the new federal system that would see the product grown by large commercial operations and sold to patients.

Last year, Health Canada put in new regulations that would stop the personal production of marijuana on April 1, 2014. But in March 2014, growers were granted a temporary injunction allowing them to keep producing until the constitutional challenge was heard.

Conroy said the trial is expected to last three weeks, but he doesn’t expect a decision until the summer or fall at the earliest.

The laws are unconstitutional because they do not allow people to produce for themselves, or have a caregiver do it for them, he said.

“It places people in a situation where they have to choose between their liberty on the one hand, or having to go to the black market or the grey market if they can’t afford the (licensed producer) prices, which many of them on disability pensions can’t.”

Opponents of the new laws have said the prices from the new medical growers will be prohibitive, while patients can grow at home for much cheaper and know what goes into their product.

The federal government has cited widespread problems with the system of home production, which can create issues with mould or fire hazards in homes.

Conroy said they want people to be allowed to grow pot for personal medicinal use – not for sale – “just like they grow their own food.”

He said if the judge ruled that people could continue to grow, the commercial regime could still move forward, adding they are not opposed to the new licensed producers, but some people want to keep control of what goes into their cannabis.