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Federal Court flooded with medical pot cases
By James Keller, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER - More than 200 people, many armed with a "legal kit" downloaded from the Internet, have flooded the Federal Court with lawsuits demanding the right to possess and grow their own medical marijuana.
A judge has put most of the cases on hold until a decision next year in a case examining Ottawa's recent changes to pot production.
New regulations were to take effect April 1 restricting medical marijuana production to licensed commercial growers, but an injunction was issued in March that temporarily allowed patients who were previously authorized to grow medical marijuana to continue doing so while some patients challenge the new rules.
A Federal Court decision released this week notes 222 people, each representing themselves, have filed their own lawsuits alleging the federal marijuana laws are unconstitutional. They want, among other things, personal exemptions to possess or grow their own pot.
Some of the plaintiffs will still be permitted to grow under the terms of the injunction, Judge Michael Phelan wrote.
Other plaintiffs include previously authorized patients whose licences expired too early to be covered by the injunction; patients who believe possession limits imposed by the injunction are too strict; and some who want to use marijuana for other reasons, including "preventative medicine" or for "self actualization."
Those groups will see their cases put on hold until next year's Federal Court case is decided, Phelan ruled.
"The resolution of (the existing case) will likely, at a minimum, reduce the issues in play, clarify those remaining and potentially simplify the litigation for all lay litigants," wrote Phelan.
His judgment gives the plaintiffs 10 days to submit revised documents with additional evidence to show they need a similar temporary injunction allowing them to possess or grow.
Many of the plaintiffs used instructions and legal templates distributed by Ontario-based marijuana activist John Turmel, who posted a free how-to guide on his website, the decision says.
Phelan questioned whether Turmel's legal kit was the most effective way for the plaintiffs to press their cases.
"Many (of the lawsuits) suffer from a paucity of information," wrote Phelan.
"Those using the Turmel kit blindly may wish to consider whether doing so will advance their particular interest. Vague generality and hyperbole are not always of assistance."
Turmel, who is among the 222 plaintiffs, did not return a call seeking comment.
On his website, he provides a statement of claim for prospective clients to sign and then submit to the Federal Court registry. The court charges a $2 filing fee.
The 51-page document argues federal marijuana rules, both old and new, are unconstitutional because they don't allow adequate access to medical marijuana.
In the case that's already underway, the plaintiffs argue the updated regulations violate their right to acquire important medicine because marijuana is expected to initially be more expensive under the new approach.
They also complain they won't have as much control over which strains of the drug they have access to.
There are currently 13 companies listed on Health Canada's website as authorized commercial producers.
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