Politics

Vancouver man seeks legal right for 3kg supply of medicinal pot

A Vancouver man’s legal victory for the right to possess a kilogram of medicinal pot was short-lived, but he's pressing on with a legal fight to have a month-long, three-kilogram supply.

Patient who uses 100g of cannabis a day continues legal battle after earlier victory overturned

A Vancouver man is seeking the legal right to have a 30-day supply of medicinal marijuana. With a 100 gram dose each day, that would amount to three kilograms. (Susan Montoya Bryan/Associated Press)

A Vancouver man's legal victory for the right to possess a kilogram of medicinal pot was short-lived, but he's pressing on with a legal fight to have a month-long, three-kilogram supply.

Allan Harris, who goes by Jeff, uses 100 grams of cannabis a day to manage chronic pain.

CBC News reported this week that the Federal Court had ruled that the 150-gram regulatory cap on possession violated his constitutional rights, and granted him an exemption to have a 10-day supply.

That decision 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.

Harris is the lead plaintiff in a legal challenge for the right to possess a 30-day supply along with several other patients, including one person who is authorized by a doctor to have 200 grams a day.

That man "is not even allowed one day's supply. There's no other medication that's based on amount," Harris said.

"Why am I able to get 30 days of any narcotic, but I can't have 10 days or 30 days of my cannabis?"

Harris, a 50-year-old accountant, pointed out that there are no limits to the amount of liquor, cigarettes or junk food one can buy; and that prescription drugs are typically allotted by how long the supply will last, not by mass. 

"I can smoke myself to death, I can eat myself to death or I can drink myself to death and the government doesn't do anything about it. But when it comes to cannabis, then we've got to be protected," he said.

Higher shipping fees

Harris makes oil from the cannabis, then puts it in a gel cap with coconut oil. He said he has built up a tolerance after decades of consumption.

"If you took a gram of my oil, you'd be asleep, but for me taking a gram that's pretty well nothing. I'm used to it," he said.

Harris, who has a doctor's authorization for a daily dose of 100 grams, argued the 150-gram limit 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 reasons for the May ruling issued Friday, Justice Henry Brown said Harris's rights had been infringed, calling it an "injustice" and saying that Harris was effectively under a form of home arrest.

In overturning that decision, Federal Court of Appeal Justice David Near sided with the Crown, ruling that if Harris could find other ways to obtain the medicinal marijuana if he were travelling.

If he was granted a constitutional exemption, others would likely seek and obtain the same right, he wrote. That would mean the 150-gram limit would be effectively suspended for a large number of people without undergoing a full constitutional review.

"The Attorney General alleges that by granting Mr. Harris's request for a constitutional exemption, the Federal Court's order causes irreparable harm to the public interest. I agree," Near wrote.

The justice also noted that the 150-gram public possession and shipment cap was brought in address the increased risks of theft, violence and diversion associated with possession of large quantities of cannabis.

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