Medical marijuana advocates descended upon South Surrey-White Rock -Cloverdale MP Russ Hiebert's office in South Surrey Thursday to let it be known they are against proposed changes to Canada's Medical Marijuana Access Regulations.
Consisting of supporters and users of medicinal marijuana, the group of about 10 stood outside of Hiebert's office for half an hour starting at 11 p.m. as part of a nation-wide movement to raise the issue at local MP offices.
The issue at hand is a proposal by the federal government to phase out all personal production of medical marijuana by March 2014, essentially make it so users will have no choice but to get their medicine from commercial dispensaries. Currently, users can apply for a license to grow their own marijuana at home or choose to make their purchases at a dispensary or private seller.
David Hutchinson, whose 19-year-old daughter is a user of medicinal marijuana, came out to show his concern over the proposed changes.
"These changes would make it unaffordable for those who take medical marijuana, I have a daughter who takes it and this would make the medicine unaffordable by essentially making it go from $200 a month to over $3000 a month," he said. "They're taking away people's opportunities to grow it themselves or buy from private growers and that makes it unaffordable for some users."
According to Hutchinson, his daughter uses medicinal marijuana to relieve the symptoms caused by brain tumours she's been afflicted with over the years.
"She was basically given a death sentence and cannabis has given her a chance and now they want to take it away from people's control," said Hutchinson, noting that the changes could lead to people like his daughter having to turn to the street to purchase affordable marijuana rather than commercial dispensaries. "Right now, the price (Health Canada) is quoting is higher than what you can find on the black market. So the prohibition that's causing this, it's going to make the violence and crime associated with the drug trade worse."
Hutchinson said Hiebert has so far been supportive of him and his daughter throughout their plight, and even assisted in getting her the license after her application process was stalled.
"When we first made the application to Health Canada it was taking months and so I came to MP Hiebert and said this isn't working and asked him for help and he did, he contacted Health Canada directly and after three weeks I got my license," recalled Hutchinson.
For Joy Davies, who suffers from fibromyalgia and grows her own medicinal marijuana, she's concerned that the changes would essentially make her a criminal for growing her own medicine.
Currently there are nearly 30,000 people in Canada licenced to grow medical marijuana, with 11,500 in B.C. alone. According to Davies, by being able to grow her own marijuana, she pays about $1.80 per gram. If the proposed changes come into effect, Davies said she estimates the cost to jump to $8.80 per gram by 2014.
"If I have to pay for my medication that's $6,000 a month I don't have," she said. "So we're asking (the government) put a hold on it and talk to us. We are the highest stakeholders of all and they never consulted us about this change. We are important, our lives are important and we don't want to be murdered because of policy."