Medical marijuana landmark charter case has pot growers on edge

Marijuana growers, pot grower
Photo of Shawn Davey by Danny Kresnyak

Shawn Davey won’t leave home without his driftwood walking stick, glasses and pocket vaporizer loaded with marijuana.

The 38 year-old former custom-car builder says he experiences numbness on his left side, gaps in short-term memory and chronic body pain – all permanent residuals of a traumatic brain injury and three-month long coma suffered after a vehicle accident in June of 2000.

He says the stick stabilizes him when vertigo takes hold— that the “vape” provides pain relief and that his doctor-prescribed, 25-gram a day marijuana intake is the reason he is able to function.

Davey is the first of five plaintiffs to testify before Federal Judge Michael L. Phelan in a case against Health Canada that will define the rules of medical marijuana growth in this country. 

Marijuana a "difference maker"

“You name them, I’ve taken them: Demerol, Oxy(contin), hydromorphs (morphine) all the pharmaceutical solutions,” Davey said as he stood with a crowd of demonstrators gathered on the sidewalk in front of Vancouver’s Federal Court building.

“My doctors told me I’d never walk again, never talk again. Marijuana is the difference maker,” Davey said. 

Davey’s license to grow 120 plants – and Alexander’s to grow 150 – were approved under provisions of Health Canada’s Medical Marijuana Access Regulations. In 2013, Health Canada redrafted the rulebook.

The new guidelines – called the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) – replaces the homegrown option with a commercially-controlled marketplace, and classify these two neighbours' private garden as a criminal enterprise.

The MMPR took effect in January of 2014 but a constitutional challenge filed by lawyer John Conroy on behalf of Davey and co-plaintiffs Tanya Beemish, Neil Allard and David Hebert resulted in an injunction and the licensing of medicinal grow-ops remains in legal purgatory until Judge Phelan’s decision is read.

His decision will regulate whether patients can legally grow their own medicine, or if unable, to designate a grower to cultivate their medicinal crop. 

“Plaintiffs use marijuana as medicine, if they cannot do so legally than the situation is a choice between liberty and health. A failure in a just society,” said Conroy in his opening remarks. MMPR changes violate the right to life, liberty and security of person guaranteed under article seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For his clients and another 175,000 licensed patients who use marijuana as medicine, if growth is restricted to commercial agencies, they will be unable to fill their prescriptions due to increased cost, fewer options and the additional stress of buying rather than growing their medication.  

Affordability and health concerns in pot procurement

In an affidavit published on-line by Conroy, Davey states it costs him between $290-330 per month to grow at home.

Price estimates of commercially grown marijuana fluctuate around $12 per gram. Without a compassionate discount, the price of Davey’s prescribed daily dose would increase to $300 dollars per day.

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