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Medical marijuana patients to sue Health Canada

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Thousands of Canadians across the country are planning a class action lawsuit against Health Canada after they were outed as medical marijuana users in a mass mail out last week.

Cannabis in Canada Society Founder and Director Jason Wilcox told Metro that at least one person has lost his job over the gaffe and thousands more fear their gardens may be targeted and their houses robbed.

The fear is the result of Health Canada sending out 40,000 documents to patients in a white envelope with the words “Medical Marijuana Access Program” written across the top, followed by the patient’s name and address.

Wilcox and Scott McCluskey are the named plaintiffs in the case and will represent up to 40,000 Canadians who have been affected.

“We want the government to see the potential fallout,” said Wilcox, adding that he worries for patients who live in small towns, especially those who reside in a “right-wing, conservative town, that is anti-marijuana.”

“If you’re in a small town, you are more exposed. If it goes into the neighbour’s mailbox, which often happens with Health Canada, you’re exposed. And everybody that’s in a small town talks.”

Health Canada Deputy Minister George Da Pont said last week the format of the mailing was the result of an “administrative error.” He said the letters outlining changes to the Marihuana Medical Access Program, which take effect next spring, were sent to 40,000 patients.

Among the reasons for changes to the rules, which will prohibit patients from growing their own marijuana at home, cited in the letter is concern that participants in the program will be targets of home invasions. Da Pont went on to say the mail out was “not standard Health Canada practice.”

Wilcox has been in the federal marijuana access program for more than a decade and said he has never had his medical records exposed like this.

“Up until now, all mail has come registered courier and you sign for it,” Wilcox told Metro Sunday.

“And then all of a sudden, because of this changeover in the program, after 12 years of autonomy and proper privacy of patient rights, Health Canada just outed 40,000 sick and disabled and elderly Canadians and dying Canadians in this country and there’s no 'sorry?'”

Information and Privacy Commissioner Spokesperson Heather Ormerod said the matter is being investigated by her office.

Wilcox said he will file the suit through Branch MacMaster law firm sometime this week.