Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Ontario court strikes down Canada’s pot laws

I was pleased to read today that at  a  Canadian Judges recognise the value of the cannabis plant as a medicine that Governments have wrongly barracaded away and tried to put into the arms of Pharmaceutical Companies.

Whilst we read that in the UK that GW Pharmaceuticals has  signed exclusive licence pact with Novartis to commercialise Sativex in Australia, Asia, Middle-East & Africa, governments continue to prosecute individuals (and indeed threaten imprisonment) individuals that grow their own.

Sativex is licensed to Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd in the United States, to Almirall SA in Europe (excluding the United Kingdom), to Bayer HealthCare AG in the UK and Canada, and to Neopharm Group in Israel/Palestine. Sativex is approved in the UK, Spain, Canada and New Zealand in the treatment of spasticity due to MS. In addition, a further six European countries (Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic) have recently recommended Sativex for approval and are expected to grant national licences in mid-2011.

Yet these Pharmaceutical companies that produce the Sativex sprays merely use extracts of chemicals from the cannabis plant itself, dissolved in alcohol with a hint of peppermint flavouring charge so much money that it has become inaccessible to many of the thousands of UK citizens that could benefit: one dose of Sativex costs many times more than one dose of cannabis.

Now, in Canada, a judge has seen through the Government charade and the obstacles they have created, and ruled against Canada's laws against possessing and growing cannabis as part of a ruling that found the country's medicinal marijuana program is failing to provide access to the drug for those who need it.

Globe and Mail, 13 April 2011
The ruling means the government must either improve its system for licensing medicinal marijuana patients within 90 days, or it will become legal to use or grow the drug for any purpose. The government can, however, buy itself more time by appealing the ruling. 
 The court decision hinged on the difficulty medicinal users have in finding a doctor willing to sign the necessary paperwork. The problem, Judge Taliano ruled, is that the government requires patients to obtain the approval of a doctor to take marijuana legally but does not give physicians adequate training or fund sufficient clinical trials of the drug. As a result, much of the medical community refuses to approve its use.
"Rather than promote health – the regulations have the opposite effect. Rather than promote effective drug control – the regulations drive the critically ill to the black market," he wrote. "Surely, the right to choose belongs to the patient, not to government that has failed to create the environment for better research into the drug’s effectiveness and harmful qualities."

The case was brought forward by Matthew Mernagh, a 37-year-old man from St. Catharines, Ont., who couldn't find a doctor to approve his use of marijuana to relieve the symptoms of several illnesses, including fibromyalgia and scoliosis. He was charged with cultivating his own cannabis, charges that were also staid by Judge Taliano.

Several other medicinal users of the drug testified they faced similar problems, and that Health Canada would take months to process their applications.

Judge Taliano agreed with Mr. Mernagh's argument that criminally charging patients who had to resort to illegally buying cannabis amounted to a violation of their Charter right to liberty.

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