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Corporate Pot Profiteers Don't Care About Patients

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Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Whose side are the new licensed marijuana producers really on?

Last week, an injunction was granted to the "Coalition Against Repeal" -- a group of patients and advocates who want to preserve their ability to grow their own cannabis medicine for personal medical use.

This injunction means that, until their case is resolved in court, patients who had a valid licence to grow their own cannabis can continue to do so. The legal process can take a very long time, especially with appeals, meaning patients should be able to continue growing their own for at least until the next federal election.

Health Canada isn't being forced to give out new home cultivation licenses, but everyone who had a valid license as of Sept. 30, 2013 (which is when Health Canada stopped renewing licenses) is now covered under this court decision.

There's many ramifications to this injunction which I will explore in future columns, but what I want to focus on right now is the disconnect between this campaign for patient's rights, and the new licensed producers who hope to sell cannabis buds to patients.

Profits over patients

I want to point out that not a single one of the new licensed producers has ever come out publicly in support of patients' rights to grow their own. And certainly none of these multi-million dollar operations has donated so much as one cent towards this ongoing legal challenge. Why would they? They stand to reap greater profits if patients are forbidden to compete by growing cheaply for themselves.

Medical cannabis dispensaries however, which operate as an independent network in a legal grey area, have shown their support. The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries put out a press release in support of the injunction decision, and several dispensaries are among the largest donors to the coalition's legal fund. Dispensaries don't benefit from patients growing their own, but for the most part they are run by idealistic people who believe in helping others.

But from the licensed producers, with their multi-million budgets and plans for big profits, there has been deafening silence. None has given a penny or even given a single word of encouragement to the coalition and the fight to allow home cultivation. Indeed, it's often been the exact opposite.

Whose side are they on?

You would think that even just for PR purposes, one of these companies would at least pretend to care about protecting the rights of the people to whom they want to sell medicine.

Instead, we get companies like MediJean, saying they will be putting their profits towards the anti-marijuana DARE program, and lauding Health Canada's attack on patients as "well-designed to help law enforcement."

If I was a medical cannabis user looking for a company to buy my medical cannabis from, I would not pick the one which had gleefully announced their support for the crackdown that took away my home garden! Especially when that company says they're going to be putting their profits towards anti-marijuana campaigns! Is that really what they think cannabis-using patients want to see their dollars going towards?

MediJean specifically is a company whose press releases are doing them more harm than good, and whose enthusiastic support for a crackdown on home growers should earn them a boycott from all medical cannabis users.

Show some class

How classy would it be for a licensed producer to say that they are putting a portion of their profits towards the coalition which is fighting to protect home cultivation? Think of the free publicity! Think of how patients might react to that show of solidarity and support! Why haven't any of their marketing departments come up with this idea?

I challenge all licensed producers, those licensed now and those to come over the coming months, to put some money into this court battle, and show patients that you are really on their side.

It's easy to donate to the coalition, just click here and make it happen. Anyone who thinks patients should have the right to grow their own should really kick down a few dollars to help cover their legal fees.

In court, Health Canada's lawyers actually argued that if home cultivation was allowed to continue, then these new licensed producer companies would not be able to make any sales! If that's really the case, they never should have gotten into this industry. What kind of business model is based on jailing people who make the same thing you do?

Does the tomato industry rely on prohibition of home tomato growing? Are we forbidden from making our own furniture to protect the couch industry? The wine and beer industries seem to be doing fine, even though there's also home brew and U-Brew options.

A simple solution

If the government really wants to stop home cultivation, the solution is simple. Legal cannabis needs to be a lot cheaper! As long as marijuana costs more than $5 a gram, there's going to be a strong motivation to grow your own. But if legal, medical-grade marijuana costs only $1 a gram, then suddenly home-growing under lights simply won't be worth the effort, and home-grown cannabis will become as much of an issue as home-grown tomatoes.

There's simply no reason for legal, medical-grade cannabis to be so expensive. The only reason for high prices on the black market is because of the "danger pay" required due to threat of arrest and imprisonment.

At a retail price of $1 a gram, (which should include all relevant taxes), legal marijuana would be about $450 a pound. Organic tomatoes cost around $4 a pound, and there's no reason for it to cost over 100 times more to grow high-quality cannabis than to grow a high-quality tomato!

Legal marijuana for all adults at about $1 a gram is the long-term future we should be working for. Companies whose business plan relies on patients being forced to pay inflated street prices for their legal, herbal medicine would do well to remember that.

* Join the National Day of Action for Patient's Rights on April 1.

* Donate to the MMAR Coalition Against Repeal.

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