HALIFAX - A medical marijuana user in Nova Scotia says he would rather go to jail than stop growing his own pot after changes to Health Canada regulations preventing cultivation at home.
Bob Dillman says he and his wife were arrested at their Halifax home on March 4 and charged with production and possession of marijuana after years of being permitted by Health Canada to grow it for medical purposes. They are due in court next month.
Dillman was denied his latest license renewal because Health Canada is phasing out the home-growing program and replacing it with authorized producers, he said.
But he said he cannot afford to buy marijuana from approved suppliers and it could conflict with his chemical sensitivities.
"I can't use the stuff. So I have to grow my own. I have no option," he said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Dillman uses marijuana to medicate a range of health conditions including arthritis and chronic pain. He said his body cannot handle pharmaceutical drugs.
Debbie Stultz-Giffin, chairwoman of Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana, said cannabis is the only thing that controls Dillman's symptoms and it's the only medication that his body will physically tolerate.
"What's the point of sending a man like this, perhaps, to prison?" she asked at the news conference.
Stultz-Giffin said the new system is unfair to marijuana users like Dillman.
Health Canada says on its website that approved producers will ensure quality-controlled marijuana is produced in a sanitary setting.
A temporary court-ordered injunction has been placed on the Health Canada changes, allowing people with existing permits to continue growing at home until a wider constitutional challenge of the regulations is heard.
But because Dillman's renewal was denied before the injunction came into effect, he said he is no longer legally permitted to grow marijuana at home.
Dillman said he contacted multiple government officials in anticipation of the rule changes.
"I was trying to be proactive ... and stay above board, be legal," he said.
"They just weren't having it."
Dillman said he was assured by an official in the provincial Justice Department that authorities in Nova Scotia would not enforce the new rules because of the injunction.
But Justice Department spokesman Andrew Preeper said while the official was contacted by a member of the public about medical marijuana, he was not aware of the details of the individual situation.
Halifax police will not confirm charges have been laid against Dillman because the information has not been sworn in court. But they said they did arrest a man at an address where Dillman says he lives.
Police said they got a warrant after attending the home on a separate matter, noticed the grow operation and returned to make the arrest.
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