The federal government will not appeal a Federal Court ruling that upheld patients' rights to grow their own medical marijuana, Health Minister Jane Philpott announced Friday.
"The government of Canada has decided on the matter of Allard vs. Canada we will not be appealing the court's decision. We will respect the decision of the Federal Court," Philpott told reporters after question period.
In February, a Federal Court judge struck down regulations restricting the rights of medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis, and gave the Liberal government six months to come up with new rules.
Philpott says the work on new regulations is already underway.
"We are committed, as you know, to make sure Canadians who require marijuana for medical purposes have appropriate access to that. And until such time as the amendments are put in place, the marijuana for medical purposes regulations will remain in effect," the minister said.
The constitutional challenge was launched by four British Columbia residents who argued the 2013 legislation blocked their access to affordable medicine. One of them was Neil Allard, whose name became the shorthand reference for the case.
Those covered by the original injunction — about 28,000 Canadians — can continue to grow their own medical pot until the new regulations are in place this August.
The minister would not say whether the revised rules would continue to allow people to grow their own after that time.
Philpott would only say the regulations would deal with the issues raised in the court's ruling.
"The Federal Court's concern was that under the current legislation … medical marijuana was not appropriately affordable and accessible to Canadians. And those are the parts of the regulations we are required to address," Philpott said.
The regulations were introduced by the Conservative government in 2013 and required patients to buy cannabis from licensed producers instead of growing their own.
Judge Michael Phelan heard the case last spring in Vancouver.
During the hearings, federal government lawyers argued that the regulations ensured patients have a supply of safe medical marijuana while protecting the public from the potential harm of grow operations in patients' homes.
The lead counsel for the plaintiffs, John Conroy, argued the legislation has robbed patients of affordable access to medicine, leaving some with no choice but to break the law, either by continuing to grow their own or by purchasing on the black market.