The Ontario Government’s Decision to Legalize Cannabis for Medical Purposes

Toronto council backs fight against Quebec’s Bill 21, calling it ‘contrary to the values of Torontonians and Canadians’

On Monday, the Ontario government introduced legislation to make it illegal for the province to refuse medical cannabis in response to a Supreme Court ruling on the matter. It’s an extraordinary move that is likely to have far-reaching effects on the legal landscape within the province. At the same time, the Bill and its fate are an opportunity for the federal and provincial governments to make the case for how to approach the legalization of marijuana.

The story of the decision that led to the introduction of Bill 21 is long and convoluted, but in the end, the province has been forced to choose between two paths: either legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes (and, potentially, establishing a legal market for it) or the continued refusal of medical services that might be provided by a federally regulated market.

The province is seeking the former, and with this legislation is hoping to demonstrate that it is not as serious of a threat to “the values of Torontonians and Canadians” as those who will be opposed to the law.

However, for those who believe that the province’s actions are not only contrary to the values of patients, but also to Canadian values, this legislation is cause for concern and alarm.

First, the bill:

1. Makes it illegal for the province to refuse medical cannabis to patients who qualify for it based on a variety of factors (namely, they have a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition and are prescribed cannabis by a physician). Patients who have been denied access to marijuana for medical purposes may sue Ontario’s provincial government for violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

2. Establishes a process for the province to consider whether a particular patient should be allowed access and, if not, outlines the remedies that the province will use to protect patients from being denied access based on the basis of race, health, religion, sexual orientation and disability.

3. Establishes a definition of “heath authority” for purposes

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