Harnett to argue medical marijuana patient voices should be heard
By Jennifer Pritchett, Associate Editor
Toronto criminal lawyer Aaron Harnett and other counsel will be arguing in the Superior Court of Justice on Monday for leave to intervene in a case where the City of Toronto is seeking an injunction to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries within the municipality.
“On behalf of a group of patients, we are seeking to intervene in an interim motion on Monday to be able to express to the court how these issues are going to affect the people who have come to rely on medical marijuana dispensaries,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.
Harnett, principal of Aaron B. Harnett Criminal Defence Lawyer, and the other counsel — Jack Lloyd and Jeremy Lum-Danson — will appear in a civil proceeding at Osgoode Hall (courtroom 9), 130 Queen St. W., at 10 a.m. Monday.
Their request seeking leave to intervene is part of a hearing, set for two days beginning on Sept. 25, which will ultimately determine whether the court grants the city's proposed interim injunction against Canna Clinic dispensaries, Harnett explains.
“If they do, that will effectively shut them down in a way that the repeated police raids have not done to date,” he says.
Harnett, Lloyd and Lum-Danson will argue as friends of the court in an effort to have it hear the voices of patients who rely on medical marijuana, he says.
The proposed intervenors they represent make up a group of 14 individuals authorized by their doctors and the federal government to purchase, possess and use cannabis for medical purposes, says the factum the lawyers have submitted to the court.
“We are intervening to allow our clients’ views be known," Harnett says.
“And their view is that they should continue to have access to medical marijuana dispensaries.”
In a series of raids — the most recent in June — police shut down seven medical marijuana dispensaries in Toronto operated by the British Columbia-based Canna Clinic, says Harnett.
In February, the City of Toronto brought a civil injunction for them to remain closed. The municipality will argue at the interim hearing next week for the dispensaries to be shuttered for now, with a plan to argue a full motion for a permanent injunction at a later date, he says.
In response, Canna Clinic has asked for an injunction so they can remain open until the full hearing is held on the city's request for a permanent closure is heard, Harnett says. The company has also filed a separate motion of notice to the court challenging, on behalf of the patients, the constitutionality of the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) on the basis that they fail to allow dispensaries, which are part of reasonable access, he adds.
The factum submitted to the court by the patient group outlines their argument for leave to intervene in the city's case. It also presents the group’s position on how the situation should be resolved in general, Harnett says.
"For the Patients, medical cannabis dispensaries play an essential role in providing them with safe, affordable and reasonable access to the medical cannabis they require," the factum says.
"Medical cannabis dispensaries fill the void that the Government of Canada has failed to address by supplying necessary, safe and effective medical cannabis-based products which the Patients cannot obtain from any other legal source. Without dispensaries, the Patients would be forced to do without their medication or purchase cannabis directly from street dealers. Some may rely exclusively on powerful and addictive opiates to manage their symptoms," it says.
The patients also argue they have a Charter-mandated right to access medical cannabis and if the dispensaries are shut down, on an interlocutory or permanent basis, they will lose reasonable access to their medical cannabis.
Harnett describes the stories of the patients as "persuasive evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries play a vital role in providing reasonable access to the medicine.
"The federal government has chosen to leave storefront dispensaries out of the medical marijuana access regime," he says. "This is a terrible mistake."