Currently cannabis production, use and distribution is prohibited in Canada via the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

For many years, the Canadian government debated changing the cannabis laws. A Bill proposed to amend the laws by providing for the decriminalization and implementation of fines for possession of small amounts of cannabis, but severely increasing punishment for cultivation. The Bill did not pass.

As we have moved towards a Harper-led Conservative government, decriminalization has disappeared from the table and instead see mandatory prison sentences for drug offences, including cultivation of cannabis. While these Bills are ostensibly focused on tackling organized crime, they unfairly include dispensaries, medical cannabis cultivators and patients in their mandatory sentencing schemes.

Watch our testimony to the Senate Committee on Legal & Constitutional Affairs regarding mandatory sentencing for cannabis cultivation and its impact on medical cannabis patients, given in December 2009.

Senate Report

The Canadian Senate wrote an extensive report stating that the harms associated with cannabis were due to its prohibition, and recommending that cannabis be legalized and regulated. The report is called Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy, a report by the Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs, September 2002

The BCCCS was invited to testify before the senate Committee, and provided testimony.

Medical Use

The medical use of cannabis is also prohibited, unless it is done through Health Canada. This program does not however accommodate the existence of dispensaries, which have provided years of face-to-face expertise and patient care.

Even the Senate Report chapter on medical cannabis noted the importance of compassion clubs (Part II, Chapter 9: Use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes).

Case Law

There have been several key cases in Canada that have challenged both the general prohibition of cannabis, and the MMAR itself.  Compassion clubs have also been involved in some court cases. Visit our lawyer John Conroy ‘s website for more information on legal cases. He provided a recap of the legal history of medicinal cannabis in the Canadian courts.