Licences to grow marijuana at home soon to go up in smoke
Medical marijuana growers like Stephen Stairs will no longer be able to grow their own pot after March 31, 2014.
Published Sunday, September 29, 2013 5:11PM CST
Health Canada is about to change its rules around medical marijuana growers and some patients worry the new regulations could force them to buy their medicine on the street.
Steven Stairs has a licence to grow his own medical marijuana. He says he can produce it for about a dollar a gram.
Starting Tuesday, Health Canada will no longer issue licences for medical marijuana patients to grow pot at home and instead require them to buy from licenced private growers. Stairs said these companies will charge much more for marijuana than it would cost him to provide it for himself.
"The federal government's not going to cover it through Pharmacare,” he said. “The provincial healthcare systems don't have money to pay for it."
Stairs and other home growers will see their licences to grow at home expire March 31, 2014. Federal government officials say home grow operations like Stairs' are a safety hazard and that marijuana from some of them is ending up in the hands of organized crime.
"The regulations will provide access to quality-controlled marihuana for medical purposes, produced under secure and sanitary conditions, to those Canadians who need it, while strengthening the safety of Canadian communities," said Health Canada in a statement.
Some drug reform advocates disagree.
“I retired as the Staff-Sargent in charge of homicide, major crime and the street crime unit, so I'm quite familiar with the drug trade,” said Bill Vandergraff, a member Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
The new regulations will create more business for organized crime, said Vandergraff. “Many will attend to the black market, there's no question about that, because people will stop growing.”
Not everyone will dismantle their home grow operations, creating a new class of criminal, said Stairs. "You're really going to put people back in the position of having to grow illegally, jeopardizing their futures, their careers, their home life, their custody of their children, just their basic livelihood."
Health Canada argues the old program became open to abuse and grew too rapidly, from 500 growers in 2001 to over 30,000 today. Health Canada is sifting through applications to approve companies that will grow medical marijuana.
- With a report by Ben Miljure