The mysterious case of $68,000 in medical marijuana that has gone missing while on its way to suffering patients, highlights the flaws in Canada's laws on the legal distribution of the drug, says Sam Mellace.
"A proper dispensing method is desperately needed in this country," says Mellace, who is government-licensed to grow marijuana for himself and three other Ontario patients to ease chronic pain of degenerative diseases.
The situation underscores the need for reform of laws governing the distribution of the legal drug, says Toronto lawyer Joseph Neuberger.
Current restrictions force growers to take risks in transporting their product and fail to provide patients with secure access, he says.
"Although a system exists for the production and distribution for medical marijuana to patients across Canada, patient access to a safe and reliable supply of medicinal marijuana remains dubious and undermined by the reluctance of the government to accord medicinal marijuana its true legitimacy as a medical remedy," Neuberger says.
"It is fine to say that sick Canadians have a right to medicinal marijuana, but when in essence this is really superficial recognition, the underlying attitude thereby undermines efforts to enhance the current system, including better methods for production and distribution."
Neuberger represents Mellace in an upcoming Constitutional challenge to the processing prohibition under the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations that do not permit the production of alternate forms of the drug, such as creams. This is the first step in a series of future litigation directed at addressing difficulties with the present system.
On March 3, Mellace shipped eight kilograms of dried marijuana from his B.C. grow-op to Ontario via United Parcel Service, the method he's used without incident for more than two years. UPS' computerized tracking system shows the package was received at their Concord, ON warehouse the next day. But Mellace was told the package could not be located.
The marijuana was destined for Mellace and three other Ontario patients legally permitted to use the drug to ease the chronic pain of degenerative diseases. Mellace has spent years lobbying the government to allow a more open, mainstream business model in which licensed growers could produce and distribute medical marijuana from local centers across the country.
Worried that his clients were going without, Mellace decided to ship a second package of marijuana from B.C. on March 8; this one containing seven kilograms of the drug. He says he alerted UPS to the second shipment, specifying the contents.
"I told them it was coming," Mellace says. "I'm not hiding anything."
On March 9, the second package was scanned as having been received at the Concord warehouse. But Mellace was again told that it could not be found.
Mellace reported the incidents to Health Canada and York Regional Police but has heard nothing since from them or from UPS, he says.
The irony is that the current distribution laws resulted in this case in converting his legal marijuana into illegal marijuana. "I believe the marijuana is probably out on the street somewhere," he says.
The lost shipments were not insured, but Mellace says he's more concerned about the patients who are without their supply.
"They're suffering. They're in pain. They're emotionally distraught. They have some very serious ailments and due to these ailments the medical marijuana was their relief that they needed."
Says Mellace: "Mr. Harper has blatantly made it clear that he does not approve of this program," Mellace says. "As much as he's trying to make it fail, this program is going to work, it is going to proceed and there's people like myself that will see the program through."
Sam Mellace is one of Canada's longest-standing medical marijuana activists. For the past decade, he has been actively fighting for a patient's right to medicate without the addiction, organ failure and death caused by opiates. He is a cancer and car accident survivor who uses cannabis to ease symptoms associated with a liver condition that developed as a result of his opiate-based pain treatment regime.
He is a federally licensed, designated grower who grows for himself and three patients. He also assists others through the onerous exemption process by helping match patients with designated growers.
Mellace is known as one of the most accomplished and sophisticated medical marijuana growers in the world. Mellace's high-security medical marijuana production facility in Mission, B.C. has been featured in countless documentaries and publications, including the National Geographic Television documentary "Marijuana Nation," the CBC's "Cannabiz," and many others.
Mellace promotes alternate, safer methods of ingestion than smoking. With a sophisticated laboratory capable of extracting the various cannabinoids without the use of solvents or adulterants, Mellace has developed a trans-dermal cream, by adding extracted THC and CBD to moisturizing lotions that he says is an effective treatment for arthritis. He also developed a butter, made from the cannabinoids, which can be safely and effectively used in anything from baked goods to spaghetti sauces.
Mellace is the manager of New Age Medical Solutions Inc. a company that he hopes will someday be granted authorization to grow marijuana and provide marijuana to others in alternative forms. Under existing law, Mellace is unable to give any of the cream or butter to patients as Health Canada has stated that any extractions are outside the scope of the agency's Marihuana Medical Access Regulations, not protected by the Authorization to Possess that patients are granted and therefore, illegal.
Joseph Neuberger is a Toronto lawyer and a partner at Neuberger & Partners LLP. A portion of his practice involves constitutional challenges. Neuberger also has extensive trial experience in the areas of sexual and domestic assault cases, homicide, fraud, drug-related offences and impaired driving. He has successfully conducted numerous jury trials, is retained by government agencies on high profile public inquiries and inquests .