More MS news articles for April 2001

Ottawa gets ultimatum to speed up medical pot applications

WebPosted Fri Apr 13 08:52:51 2001

OTTAWA - People hoping to get permission to use marijuana for medical purposes may have a new tool for cutting through Health Canada's red tape an ultimatum.

A judge told a pair of men on Thursday to give the government 30 days to make a decision on their applications, or he'll do it for them.

"I've been waiting three months, and I just don't know why they're making me wait that long," said Robert Neron, who has a doctor's prescription to use pot for his painful muscle spasms. "I've had enough of waiting."

So Neron, along with Johnny Dupuis, went to court to try to get the process speeded up.

The federal government just last week announced its plans to rewrite the rules for medical uses of marijuana, something it has to do by July 31 or see the entire pot possession law go up in smoke.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled last summer the law in its current incarnation is unconstitutional and set a deadline for new rules to be put in place.

When Neron's lawyer faxed in his application for an exemption from prosecution under the law, the RCMP responded by conducting a raid and seizing a six-month supply of marijuana. Charges have been put on hold until Health Canada makes a decision on his eligibility to use it.

On Thursday, Justice Paul Rouleau said it's been long enough. He told Neron and Dupuis to give the government an ultimatum, which he will back up.

It's a welcome development for advocates of medical uses of marijuana. John Turmel, for one, calls it a "major victory."

"Anybody who's been waiting for years after the forms have been completed knows there'll be closure in 30 days, all they have to do is give an ultimatum, and if not a judge will listen to your case."

An official with Health Canada said the agency won't comment on specific cases, but pointed out that each application takes time to assess.

Dupuis and Neron have faxed their ultimatums to the attorney general's office.

Written by CBC News Online staff