Recent changes to regulations to grow medical marijuana, causes one to ponder if the regulators are smoking the product they are supposed to control. In their enthusiasm to deal with a perceived illegal distribution problem, they introduced new prohibition rules that will probably cause even more problems for patients and law enforcement.
The underlying problem with regulating marijuana at any point is that it has so many different aspects from use to production to science to legality. The plant itself doesn’t help matters – its various varieties have multiple uses, conflicting control measures, changing public acceptance and political ramifications. That’s a sure fire recipe for fun and games for the folks involved in the wild world of marijuana. The number one factor that affects almost every aspect of the issue is that it involves law enforcement. It’s always the elephant in the room.
First some background to the issue, it’s been scientifically proven that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, provides medicinal benefits to those suffering pain and discomfort from certain ailments. That took decades to prove, but it opened up another can of worms, how to distribute an effective THC marijuana product to those with prescriptions. Initially the government tried to grow it under contract, but that failed due to agronomic ineptitude and police paranoia. Then it was decided to allow licensed users to grow marijuana for their own use under some restrictions.
That was an enlightened approach and provided those that needed it a way to obtain a quality product. As with any regulation there was abuse and that apparently drove regulators and law enforcement to exasperation and they decided to stop what they saw as a perceived problem.
The medical use aspect of marijuana is regulated by the federal Heath Canada department. One expects that perhaps under encouragement from law enforcement and justice department officials, Health Canada by regulation made the growing of marijuana for personal medical use illegal. Forthwith patients had to buy their supply from licensed commercial companies. The idea was that would immediately stop any illegal activity by home growers. A sledge hammer approach which will make criminals out of the innocent.
History has constantly shown that when you make a product illegal and/or more expensive – the illegal production of that product will increase almost instantly. Various levels of alcohol prohibition over past centuries is perhaps the best example of what will inevitably happen. But then, some patients who had grown their own product for medical use launched a lawsuit, and a wise judge granted an injunction against the new growing prohibition regulations.
The underlying legal point was that prohibiting patients from growing their own marijuana would make the medicinal product much more expensive to acquire. In a rather cavalier and arrogant response to the judge’s decision, Health Canada pronounced that they would consider it, but did not feel bound by it. Clearly a long dragged out appeal process will be launched. Government officials do not take kindly to having anyone challenge their regulations.
In the meantime there has been a stampede by prospective companies to obtain licenses to grow marijuana for medical purposes. I expect to stave off any criticism over prohibiting home growing, Health Canada figured by increasing the licensed production, a cheaper and effective product would be widely available to patients. At least that’s the theory, but human nature and common sense would indicate that won’t quite happen. Here again the marijuana plant itself will win the day. There is a reason it’s called “weed” it has the ability to grow successfully almost anywhere under any circumstances and prolifically.
Give it increased applications of agronomic principles and the marijuana species has been shown to respond to such enrichment with astounding yields in quantity and THC.
That alone is a clear message as to what will be the real response to the new Health Canada regulations. The expected result will be making criminals out of patients who wish to obtain much cheaper product.
For private companies that are jumping on the licensed marijuana growing band wagon, more power to them as they are only responding to opportunity. Even without the amount grown by patients themselves, the market for medical marijuana is exploding. In 2001 there were only 100 patients that had prescriptions to purchase the product, now there are 450,000 patients. Not all of those folks will be growing their own product. Clearly medical marijuana as a legitimate agricultural product is a growing economic opportunity. Next time – there is more to the story.
AHEAD OF THE HEARD