Winnipeggers who rely on medical marijuana joined a national protest Thursday that called for the federal government to backtrack on proposed legislation that could cause the price of the drug to skyrocket.
Protesters took to 150 different federal ridings across the country to voice their concerns about access to their medication after March 2014.The Conservative government proposed the legislation in December 2012.
The Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations would mean people who require medical marijuana will no longer be able to grow it themselves. Instead, they will have to purchase it from regulated producers.
But current medical marijuana users say that’s going to mean an enormous markup.
Kevin Huewan attended the protest in Winnipeg along with about a dozen others in Winnipeg Thursday. The group chanted and held signs outside of Conservative MP Shelly Glover’s office.
He said using medical marijuana has changed his life.
"We’re producing it for about $1.80 [per gram] right now, sometimes even less," said Huewan.
"We’re hearing that prices may sky-rocket to $8.80 or even $10 [per gram] , so upwards of 800 per cent or more."
Glover said the legislation is about minimizing the ability for people to abuse the system and for making access to medical marijuana safer for those who rely on it.
"We have people who are suffering from the mould that causes other medical conditions, fire hazards because of the electrical problems," said Glover.
She added, "Some of them become targets of home invasions."
But Bill Vandergraaf, a retired Winnipeg police staff sergeant, said telling users they can no longer grow their own plants is the equivalent of criminalizing marijuana use again.
Vandergraaf said he was only approved in the last two years to grow his own medical marijuana. "[To] have that taken away and be called a criminal again and be subject to mandatory minimums — this is nonsense!"
Vandergraaf added medical marijuana is a social health issue and shouldn’t be made about crime.
The new legislation is expected to be fully enforced by March 2014.