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Judge grants reprieve to medical marijuana growers, users

A court reprieve has allowed medical marijuana users to continue growing pot at home instead of destroying it and turning to licensed producers.

The Marijuana Medical Access Program was to end March 31. The following day, Health Canada's new regulation banning personal growing was slated to take effect.

But Friday, federal court judge Michael Manson granted a temporary injunction for those with a personal production licence to continue growing medical marijuana, pending the outcome of a constitutional challenge.

"It's excellent news," Comox Valley activist Ernie Yacub said. "There are a lot of people who were afraid, who were facing having to get rid of their medicine on April 1. You're supposed to cut down all your plants and get rid of all your medicine by mixing it in with kitty litter and disposing of it. Now how's that for an April Fool's joke?

"Consider sick people having to worry about their medicine," he added, noting the pain relief benefits of cannabis. "Think about the stress. We all know that stress is a killer.

"This is very cruel of the federal government to try to do this to sick people."

Yacub praises the efforts of Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy for challenging the new program. A trial date is expected this year.

Government cited problems such as fire risks and mould outbreaks under the system of permitted users growing pot at home.

Studies suggest grow operations are more likely to burn than regular homes. Yacub counters that people who use kitchens are more likely to burn down their house.

He suggests a solution would be to require every licence holder to have a fire and electrical inspection conducted at their premises.

"It's a bogus argument," Yacub said. "Where's the evidence that grow operations cause all these fires? There's all kinds of fear-mongering around cannabis."

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula said the City has received numerous complaints from people living next door to grow-ops, which have been "nothing but an unmitigated disaster" in residential neighbourhoods.

"Life becomes very, very unpleasant for them," Jangula said, noting the unpleasant stench from grow-ops. "I still feel the federal government has done the right thing in moving to get these things out of the residential areas."

Licensed users can grow about 200 plants for themselves and as many as three other growers, he added.

"That's hardly a little backyard garden event," Jangula said.

Growers licensed under the current system had been ordered by Ottawa to give written notice by April 30 that they'd halted production and destroyed all leftover pot, or face potential police enforcement.

The injunction doesn't stop the launch of new commercial pot producers.

With a file from Black Press

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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