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Marijuana fight is now about decriminalization

There is very little likelihood that a Charter of Rights challenge by two B.C. men to allow "compassion clubs" to sell medicinal marijuana will succeed, says Toronto criminal lawyer Aaron Harnett.

According to the National Post, the recently filed challenge argues that the legislation violates the right of patients to life, liberty and security of the person by depriving them of the well-tested, reliable pot sold by the clubs.

Carl Anderson and Wesley Jenkins operated a compassion club in Kamloops, B.C., but were charged in 2011 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with drug trafficking, the article reads. However, the two men argue shutting down clubs like theirs forces people to seek out street dealers to purchase pot that may not be as high quality and can result in poor consumer health.

"Parliament has a very wide range of choices in providing medicinal marijuana," says Harnett. "Complaints about cost and convenience will not outweigh deference to the federal scheme which has liberalized access to the medicine."

At this point, the real argument is about decriminalization, says Harnett, who was counsel in Regina v. Parker, the landmark Charter of Rights case that established the right to medical marijuana in Canada.

"There was a time when arguments about medical marijuana were the wedge to pry apart harsh prohibition laws," says Harnett. "That time is over. Now it is up the voters of Canada to cut to the heart of the issue and support decriminalization."

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