The Canadian government, required by court decree to provide a medical marijuana program it openly abhors, seems to be looking for every possible opportunity to get in the way.
Mounties in British Columbia seized two shipments of the drug bound for Ontario this spring, saying they contained forbidden cargo. But they refused to say just what that cargo might be.
The shipments were headed for Mettrum Ltd. Of Toronto and Tweed Marijuana Inc. of Smiths Falls, Ont. Both companies say they’ve done everything by the book. They say they got approval from the necessary federal regulators, and Health Canada, the nation’s public healthcare agency, backs them up.
“The marijuana did not match what was authorized to be transferred, and was seized by the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] as it contravened Section 261 and 264 of the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation,” Staff Sgt. Duncan Pound said in a statement.But the Mounties insist there was something in the shipments that wasn’t allowed.
Canada has had MMJ since the early 2000s, when an Ontario court ruled that laws preventing access to the drug violated the rights of sick people. Health Canada created the system in 2001.
For many years there was just one provider: Prairie Plant Systems Inc. and its marijuana, known as CanniMed. Patients long complained about its quality, taste, and smell, but at least they were allowed to grow their own weed on the side.
Then the Conservative Party of Prime Minister Stephen Harper came into power and decided the federal government should no longer be in the business of growing pot for patients. Instead, the job would be contracted out to several industrial cultivators. The first contract went to Prairie Plant Systems, a move that didn’t set a hopeful tone for many patients.
Harper’s government also decided patients should no longer grow weed themselves: Everything should be handled by the private sector. But a court blocked this move, issuing an injunction in March that allows patients to continue growing at home for the time being.
Under the rules of the new program, home growers were allowed to sell plants and seeds to commercial growers until March 31. They needed Health Canada approval and were barred from selling dried or finished cannabis products.
There are 12 commercial producers competing in Canada, including Tweed and Mettrum. Both companies said they ordered products from British Columbia growers to supplement their supply. But both said they followed the rules and never shipped any contraband.
“I know what was in our shipment,” said Karen Green, a spokeswoman for Mettrum. “It did not contain dried marijuana.”
Neither the companies nor the Mounties offered a compelling explanation for what happened. But Harper and his government have made their hostility toward MMJ patients clear in the past, and Canada may simply be making it harder for the system to work.