Patient who uses 100 grams of pot per day granted right to possess a kilogram at a time
Allan Harris argued his constitutional rights to liberty, equality were violated by 150-gram limit
Editor's note: The decision to allow a Vancouver man a 10-day supply of medicinal marijuana - reported in the story below - was subsequently overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal after a challenge from the attorney general, before the reasons for the initial decision were made public. Read an updated story here.
The Federal Court has granted a medical cannabis patient the right to possess a kilogram of marijuana at a time, ruling that the 150-gram regulatory cap violates his constitutional rights.
Allan Harris, who has a doctor's authorization for a daily dose of 100 grams, argued the 150-gram limit impeded his ability to travel. He said it also cost him dearly financially.
The cap prevented him from leaving home for longer than a day and a half at a time and caused him to pay higher shipping fees for multiple orders of smaller quantities, instead of cheaper bulk deliveries.
In his ruling issued Friday, Justice Henry Brown said Harris's rights had been infringed.
"In effect, Harris is under a form of home arrest brought about solely because of the inadequately low cumulative total possession limit manifesting itself in the circumstances of his particular case," he said.
"With respect, this is an injustice …"
The ruling gives Harris an exemption so he can possess a 10-day supply at any given time, which amounts to one kilogram.
Brown noted the amount Harris is permitted to consume is "extraordinarily high," totalling about three kilograms a month. According to the judgment, Harris did not state the nature of his illness or why he needs so much medical cannabis, but Brown said the quantity required to meet his health needs is "for the prescribing health care professional to decide, not the court."
Harris established he had endured "irreparable harm" because his mobility and equality rights were breached in what amounted to "unlawful discrimination."
Cannabis activist Jodie Emery said 100 grams would make about 200 smaller joints of about half-gram each, or about 100 bigger one-gram joints.
Large prescription doses are usually for patients who need a substantial amount of the dried product to make food items or other consumables, she said.
Emery said she doesn't think there should be any limits on medical cannabis possession or transport because it's a plant that poses little or no risk.
Medical weed 'under attack'
"Medical cannabis has been under attack by government for decades, and it is only through the courts that patients are granted protection from harmful, unjustified cannabis prohibition laws," she said.
Dr. Jürgen Rehm is a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He said that while there's nothing wrong with allowing a patient a ten-day supply of a medication, the federal government should revisit the regulations and "start putting the same scrutiny on medical cannabis as on any other medication.
"Currently, medical cannabis law regulations are a mess," he said. "The amount of cannabis (in this case) seems very high, but aside from this, to allow 10 days' supply of any medication does not raise a problem. And there will be very few cases like this in Canada, so I see no problem."
Jack Lloyd, a Toronto-based lawyer specializing in marijuana cases, called the limit on possession "arbitrary."
He said he's pleased with the favourable Federal Court ruling but added he would like to see class exemptions for people with medical conditions.
"To litigate this matter every time it arises would exhaust the people it affects the most — many of whom are chronically ill and unable to defend themselves, especially if required to go through a lengthy court process," he said.
A spokesperson for Health Canada would not comment on the court decision, saying only that "all public possession and shipping limits under the Cannabis Act and its Regulations remain in effect."
The legal cap for possession of recreational marijuana is 30 grams.
Possession, production, distribution and sale outside the rules could lead to criminal penalties ranging from a ticket to a prison sentence of 14 years.