Canada judge says medical marijuana too restricted

The Canadian government was reviewing its options after a judge said it may have to rewrite the country's medical marijuana laws to make it easier for patients to obtain the drug.

Marijuana growing, possession and distribution are illegal in Canada, but the government was ordered by the courts a decade ago to allow its use for medical purposes by people who have a doctor's approval.

An Ontario judge sided this week with a man who wants the drug for medical purposes, and argued his rights were violated because he was forced to raise it illegally when he was unable to find a doctor willing to prescribe it.

Shortage of doctors

The government appears to be using a shortage of doctors willing to support the drug for medical purposes as a way to limit patient access to it, Ontario Superior Court justice Donald Taliano ruled.

"Rather than promote health, the regulations have the opposite effect. Rather than promote effective drug control the regulations drive the critically ill to the black market," Taliano wrote in the 109-page ruling.

Marijuana prescription

Many doctors will not prescribe marijuana to treat chronic pain or other ailments out of fear that unanswered scientific questions about its safety and therapeutic value would violate their oath not to harm patients.

Taliano gave the government three months to either change the law or have it struck down as unconstitutional - a move some pot activists said would effectively legalise possession.

"The government of Canada is reviewing the decision and will consider its options," the federal Health Department said.

The judge also dismissed criminal charges against the man who brought the lawsuit after he was arrested for growing marijuana illegally.

Taliano's ruling would only govern enforcement in Ontario, but could be used to support similar challenges to the federal law in other provinces.(Reuters Health/ April 2011)

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