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Interview: Matt Mernagh is a Canadian-born marijuana activist whose victory in the Ontario Superior Court case R v. Mernagh brought his fight against Health Canada’s medical marijuana program to fame at a national level.
By Admins (from 17/08/2013 @ 07:08:29, in en - Video Alert, read 2019 times)

Mernagh’s court journey started 4 years ago when he was charged for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis, which Matt used to treat the several illnesses he suffered from including fibromyalgia and scoliosis. Although Matt is one of thousands of Canadians who currently seek medical treatment in the form of cannabis, patients must first request approval by obtaining a medical marijuana license from Health Canada – a policy that Mernagh had not been in compliance with.

With the help of lawyer Paul Lewin, Mernagh’s case was brought before the Ontario Superior Court early last year in an effort to expose the flawed nature of the federal medical marijuana program; a program long scrutinized by eligible patients such as Mernagh for being too inaccessible. After a 3-month long trial, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in Matt’s favor by striking down the entire regulatory program governing medical marijuana as well as the two sections of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that prohibited the production and possession of the plant. The ruling gave the federal government 90 days to improve their medical marijuana program or else cannabis would become legal for anyone to grow or possess.

Since then, the federal government has appealed the ruling and a hearing by the Ontario Court of Appeal has been set for early 2012. With his court date just around the corner, we checked in with Matt for an update on the current situation of medical marijuana in Canada. How did you prepare for the trial at the Superior court?

Mernagh: Well, we started working the day after Labor Day and worked all the way through until January. I worked in Paul Lewin’s office almost everyday for a few hours, interviewing potential witnesses who were terminally and chronically ill Canadians that couldn’t get access to the Canadian Medical Marijuana Program. So that’s how I really did the prep-work there, which was 6 months of work while Paul was doing his job. Besides the drug dealers profiting from prohibition and this failed policy, who else?

Mernagh: Who else? Obviously, the courts and the police are a big beneficiary of the war on drugs. The police budget is propped up by marijuana money to fight prohibition. We’re easy people to catch! So, the police like to spend the money on that to pump up their numbers. I think the police are one of the biggest beneficiaries of prohibition that there is. As a medical marijuana user, what is your opinion on legalizing for recreational use?

Mernagh: I think they should regulate and legalize it for recreational use. Make it a taxed and regulated marketplace. I think that my friends who are recreational users should have quality marijuana where they know what they’re getting – i.e. strains, THC levels, CBD levels, whether it is a sativa, indica, or hybrid. I think they should have the opportunity to buy cannabis like they buy their wine and alcohol. Describe how difficult it is in Canada to receive a medical marijuana license and the impact it has on patients?

Mernagh: It’s essentially like winning the lottery. We have less than 1% of doctors in Canada signing paperwork for this Health Canada program. There’s only approximately 10 000 Canadians in it right now. Just to put that number into perspective, there are 60 000 people in Oregon who have their medical marijuana licenses, which is [almost] 1% of their state population. So I think Canada’s doing a terrible job considering the fact that our program is 100% legal, compared to Oregon.

You’re putting a lot of stress on people! You really are affecting people’s health by preventing them from having access to medical marijuana. You’re causing un-due harm in terms of pain and further stress. What is your take on legal and medical professionals charging patients obscene amounts of money to receive a legitimate medical marijuana card?

Mernagh: Referrals to a doctor is not what the Law Society teaches, so I think any lawyer that’s involved with referring patients to doctors is probably committing some kind of fraud, if not, a violation of The Law Society Code of Ethics. Because from what I’ve checked, the Law Society does not have a fee for billing people for referrals to doctors. So, these lawyers are middlemen that are charging people to get access to doctors and they are also prohibition propagators. Honestly, they’re as bad as prohibitionists themselves.

In terms of doctor’s charging patients, there is a form to be filled out, so I think there should be a reasonable fee attached to that. I go to my family doctor and the top fee that he charges is $150. So, clearly, medical professionals need to look at what they’re doing in terms of charging a third-party fee. How much influence does the United States have on Canada’s legalization efforts right now?

Mernagh: The U.S. has huge influence on Canada’s legalization efforts. In reality, our drug policy for prohibition is completely directed by the U.S. and the UN. You’ll see that in my court factum, which explains that I’m in violation of the ’64 and ‘68 drug-control treaties from the UN, and U.S. drug policies are heavily cited in my factum as the reason Canada has their drug laws the way they are. I think as Canadian citizens, we should be very upset by these things. What progress has been made in Canada towards legalization in recent years and how have you contributed?

Mernagh: That’s a great question. Obviously my court ruling, R. v. Mernagh, has struck down the marijuana laws for possession and production and I think that has gone a long way for creating change in our country. It has created discussion, and by the end of this year, Canada may not have a drug policy for personal possession and production of marijuana, because our courts have decided to strike those 2 parts out of the criminal code; that’s the best route we’ve gone so far. Considering we have mandatory minimums, having the courts throw out the marijuana laws, I think, is the best thing we’ve seen in 20 or 30 years.


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