VANCOUVER – Ottawa’s decision to snuff its role in dispensing medical marijuana has ignited a debate over how the move will impact public health and safety.
Groups representing interests from law enforcement to doctors were reacting Sunday after the federal health ministry announced it will stop producing and distributing medical marijuana in favour of opening the market to private companies.
The Canadian Medical Association says the government is abdicating its role as regulator, leaving doctors to deal with a substance that has little clinical evidence to back its use.
A not-for-profit that supports cannabis dispensaries in communities says it too is reluctant to endorse the change because it means the drug remains unaffordable to those who need it, while another grassroots coalition is seeking support for a legal challenge which aims to label the government’s changes as unconstitutional.
Associations representing Canadian fire chiefs and police chiefs, however, lauded the changes as a way to reduce the number of illegal grow-ops and gang exploitation of pot.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says she believes the changes, set to be fully implemented by March 31, 2014, strike the right balance between pot access for patients and public safety.