A medical marijuana user in Nova Scotia is celebrating a Federal Court decision Wednesday that strikes down a ban on patients growing their own pot.
Debbie Stultz-Giffin uses medical marijuana to ease symptoms from multiple sclerosis and is chair of Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana.
It's unconstitutional, she said, "to force patients, many living on low fixed income, to purchase medicine at exorbitant prices from licensed producers."
Three years ago, the federal Conservative government introduced The Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, which required patients to buy cannabis from licensed producers.
Four British Columbia residents launched a constitutional challenge, arguing the legislation violated their charter rights.
On Wednesday, Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan agreed the regulations infringed on charter rights and declared they have no force and effect.
'I was elated'
"I was elated when I saw the words, 'We won," flash across my computer screen," Stultz-Giffin said. "It's been a very surreal 23 months waiting for the court case to wind down, for this monumental decision to come forward.
"But certainly in the end it's been worth every minute of it to have such a profound decision come out in favour of the patients."
Stultz-Giffin is one of thousands of Canadians who were authorized to grow medical marijuana due to a court injunction that allowed those with personal production licences to continue cultivating for their own use.
Stultz-Giffin said she couldn't afford her marijuana otherwise.
"It would have cost me in the ball park of $60,000 a year to purchase my medicine from a licensed producer. I live on a low fixed income. I have a disability. I've been out of the workforce since 1999 and I simply can't afford that."
Patients have more control over product
By comparison, Stultz-Giffin said it can cost "pennies per gram" for medical marijuana users to grow it themselves. She also said patients have better control over the quality of the product.
"Some of these licensed producers have had problem after problem for mould and one thing and another," she said. "Product recalls, and it's not what they're saying it is in terms of the strength levels and all that sort of thing.
"Coupled with the fact that sometimes you're forced to wait, and when you're forced to wait, where do you go to get your medicine?"
During the court hearings, federal government lawyers argued that the regulations ensured patients have a supply of safe medical marijuana, while protecting the public from the potential ills of grow-operations in patients' homes.
The federal Liberal government has committed to regulating and legalizing recreational marijuana but has yet to introduce any legislation.
On Wednesday, Phelan suspended his declaration for six months to give the federal government time to come up with new rules.