News / Ottawa

Ottawa marijuana users suing feds for $6.5 M

An Ottawa couple who uses medical marijuana are suing the federal government for a combined $6.5 million – a projected figure of what it will cost them to stay medicated for the next 40 years when Health Canada changes rules to its Medical Marijuana Access Regulation.

Russell Barth says he consumes about 11 to 12 grams of pot every day (he says he has a prescription for 16 grams per day) for pain management related to his fibromyalgia symptoms as well as post-traumatic stress. Barth and his wife Christine Lowe, who suffers from epilepsy, say they have a designated grower, an arrangement which allows them to stay medicated for far less than it will cost them under the new rules.

While he did not disclose how much he spends a year, he said a friend of his grew a year's worth of marijuana in a single summer at a cost of $500.

When Health Canada changes come into effect at the end of the month, Barth and his wife won’t be able to afford the up to $15 per gram they will forced to pay from commercial growers. The changes will also force Barth to destroy all the stocked-up pot he already has – about 78 plants and 3.5 kilograms of dried marijuana that he says is worth over $130,000.

His statement of claim gives the Crown three options: remove cannabis from the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act (CDSA) for everybody, grant him and his wife a section 56 that would exempt them from the CDSA or pay them the money so they can afford to medicate themselves in the future. Ideally, Barth wants marijuana to be legal for everyone. He sees a market of cheap or free pot under those circumstances.

“Pot should be sold in supermarkets,” said Barth. “Pot should be as legal as coffee and chocolate, not tobacco and alcohol.”

The new rules, which come into effect March 31, 2014, will no longer allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own pot or use designated growers.

Instead, patients will have to buy from licensed large-scale producers at a much higher cost and that doesn’t sit well with Barth.

“It’s absolutely terrifying,” he told Metro Sunday.

“Everyday I feel like I am wrestling with a robot.”

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