Judge deems Canada's pot rules unconstitutional
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is examining her options after an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that Health Canada's medical marijuana program is invalid. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI Agency Files)
OTTAWA - A controversial ruling on medical marijuana from an Ontario Superior Court judge has lit up a new federal election issue.
Judge Donald Taliano ruled that Health Canada's medical marijuana program is invalid and denies legal access to sick people who need the drug.
He gave the government 90 days to respond.
Without a response, production and possession of pot would effectively be legalized.
The day after the ruling, the 37-year-old man who brought the case forward said he started planting marijuana seeds to grow the drug he insists is the only way to control his pain.
"There's no reason for me to wait. I'm exempt from the marijuana law. I'm not going to wait," said St. Catharines, Ont., native Matthew Mernagh.
Mernagh suffers from osteoarthritis, but no doctor would back his application for a pot-growing licence.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is now examining her options.
"We are disappointed with this decision," said Tim Vail, the minister's spokesman. "While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion to ensure public safety."
Vail said it's up to the Public Prosecution Service to decide whether the government will appeal.
The Liberals, meantime, are guarded in their response.
"We are reviewing this ruling and its implications for patients across the country," said campaign spokesman Mike O'Shaughnessy. "It was a Liberal government that enacted the regulations relating to medicinal marijuana use in Canada, and we are proud of that record and support the use of marijuana for medical reasons."
O'Shaughnessy said the Grits don't support the full legalization of marijuana, but would support decriminalization of small amounts for personal use.
The Liberals also opposed Bill S-10, which would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers and marijuana growers, because they said it would throw too many young people in prison for minor crimes.
The bill died when the federal government fell in late March.
The NDP didn't respond to QMI Agency's requests for an interview.