A veteran marijuana grower in British Columbia says the Conservative government's new medicinal pot system may lead some patients to illicitly grow their pot outdoors.
Under proposed changes taking effect next year, personal-use production licences will be eliminated, making it illegal for patients to cultivate their own marijuana. Only commercial producers will be licensed in the new system.
The 28,115 Canadians currently authorized to use dried marijuana will have to rely on pricier government-sanctioned growers for their medication, rather than growing it themselves or relying on a designated grower.
A notice posted by Health Canada on the new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations estimates the current $1.80-a-gram cost for marijuana will rise to $8.80 a gram when the program takes effect.
The average additional cost to consumers will be about $166 million a year for 10 years, the notice estimates.
Mik Mann, a 55-year-old activist with a personal-grow licence, says his current doctor's prescription allows him to use up to seven grams of marijuana a day, which he cultivates from 35 plants in the basement of his home in Port Alberni.
"Right now the cost to me growing is probably a dollar a gram," he says.
"At $8.80 a gram it's pretty clear I won't be able to afford it. It will leave me without a cheap source of medication."
Health Canada says 72 per cent of applicants for an authorization to possess marijuana licence suffer from arthritis, spinal cord injury, spinal cord disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, AIDS/HIV, or epilepsy.
The Harm Reduction Journal, in a 2012 assessment of Health Canada's medical marijuana program, found 61 per cent of Canadian medical-marijuana users have an income below $30,000.