A B.C. resident has received a Health Canada licence to possess 60 grams of marijuana for daily medical use, allowing him to legally grow as many as 292 marijuana plants.
The licence provides for possibly the largest quantity ever to be legalized in Canada, say lawyers in Vancouver and Toronto who have been involved in high profile marijuana-related court cases.
“It’s a large amount. Nobody, not even Sir Walter Raleigh, could smoke 60 marijuana cigarettes a day,” Alan Young, an associate professor at Osgoode Hall law school, said Monday in an interview.
However, Sam Mellace is not smoking joints. He has a liver disorder and chronic pain from injuries he received in a car accident. He uses the plant to make skin creams and butter for baked goods. “I do not smoke it. I need that much marijuana to create the cream and butter for myself,” Mr. Mellace said in an interview.
He grows the plants for the cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids that preliminary research shows are effective in controlling his pain, Prof. Young said. “He has to grow a fair amount of plant product to get a small amount of cannabinoid compound that he extracts. So he has a very high licence,” he said.
The federal government has issued licences to 4,029 medical marijuana users, according to the most recent statistics provided on the Health Canada website. A doctor’s authorization is required before a licence is issued. Health Canada sets the limit based on the medical advice.
The licence exempts medical-marijuana users from Criminal Code provisions that make possession of the drug illegal. They can buy the drug from a government supplier, grow their own supply or find someone to grow marijuana for them. Health Canada limits growers to supplying the pot to themselves and only two others.
Prof. Young said surveys have shown that most medical marijuana users have not signed up for the federal program and most of those with federal licences are not buying the product from the government. Health Canada is spending a lot of money on a program that does not work, he said. “It’s dysfunctional. It causes enormous problems and headaches across the country,” he said.
Prof. Young has represented numerous medicinal marijuana users charged with possessing the drug and has also successfully challenged federal marijuana regulations in court, forcing the government to revise them.
He is working with Mr. Mellace on developing a proposed pilot project for Health Canada that would allow Mr. Mellace to sell his creams and butter to other medical marijuana users. Mr. Mellace said he could provide products for most licensed medical marijuana users. He would like his company, New Age Medical Solutions Inc., to become the first legal private-sector source in Canada for medicinal marijuana.
No one at Health Canada was available Monday to comment on matters related to medical marijuana or Mr. Mellace’s licence, Health Canada spokesman Stephane Shank said.
Mr. Mellace is currently growing marijuana in a rural location about 100 kilometres from downtown Vancouver. During a tour of his custom-designed facility earlier this year, he had around 250 plants in various stages of growth. He said he was growing the plants for himself and others who held Health Canada licences.
He said at that time he had set up the grow-op as a prototype to illustrate what could be done. He hopes to eventually win federal approval for a chain of clinics that will dispense medicinal marijuana products to licensed users. He would also like to distribute the products in drug stores.
Prof. Young said Mr. Mellace in the past few years has been developing expertise in production of marijuana and collecting numerous testimonials from users who say they want his products. “We want to set up a project where Mr. Mellace’s companies would be able to provide [the marijuana products to] patients directly, at a doctors request.”
Health Canada was approached with the idea of a new source of marijuana in early December. “We had discussions on whether they would keep an open mind and consider some of the options and alternatives we are presenting. The good news is, they clearly expressed an interest in our ideas and a willingness to keep an open mind. So now I am preparing proposals for them to review to see if this is a direction they might want to go in,” Prof. Young said
Vancouver criminal defence lawyer Kirk Tousaw, who has represented numerous medical marijuana users, said he was aware of others who have applied for licences to possess as much or more than Mr. Mallace. “Some people are in significant pain and have to take significant quantity of cannabis to deal with that pain,” he said, adding that the method of ingestion has a lot to do with quantity consumed.
“It brings a lot of relief for a lot of people,” he said. “You are much better off to use cannabis to control pain than opiates, because of the side effect, such as dependence, addiction, constipation and liver damage. You do not have anything like that with cannabis,” he said.
By Robert Matas