Tilray sees opportunity in federal court ruling on medical marijuana regulations

NANAIMO - Licenced marijuana producer sees opportunity in a new federal court ruling handed down this week.

Nanaimo’s largest licenced pot producer sees opportunity in a federal court ruling that struck down medical marijuana regulations.

The Federal Court of Canada declared the government’s medical marijuana regime, which prevented patients from growing at home, unconstitutional this week.

It’s a decision that’s considered significant and even historic by lawyer Kirk Tousaw, who co-represented the case’s four plaintiffs, including Nanaimo’s Neil Allard. For Greg Engel, chief executive officer of Tilray, there’s optimism the ruling will open up opportunity.

In the case, Judge Michael Phelan ruled the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), which prevents people from growing their own medical marijuana, infringes on charter rights in what Tousaw said is the first time the issue of personal production of medical marijuana has been put before the courts for review.

The judge suspended his ruling for six months to allow for a response by the federal government and in the meantime, only those patients protected under a previous 2014 injunction can continue to grow.

There’s no uncertainty for Tilray, one of 29 licenced producers in Canada under the federal regulations, whose chief executive officer points to the proliferation and licensing of marijuana dispensaries as having more impact on the marketplace.

When people could opt to grow under the federal government’s now-repealed system, only a small percentage did so, according to Engel, who said his company is focused on ensuring those who choose not to grow receive medicines that are “safe and consistent and reliable.”

He also says the company can offer 15 to 20 different varieties at any one time and only this week launched cannabis oil, whereas home growers would grow a couple of strains.

What Engel sees as a positive step is that government has been given time to look at making changes to the federal law, which is seen as an opportunity to evolve and modify regulation.

There are restrictions for the company, including on concentrations of THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. It also cannot produce cartridges for vaporizer pens.

“We are optimistic that with the court mandating the government look at the regulations that it will actually open up the opportunities significantly for us in terms of what’s going to be available and what we can provide to patients,”  he said.

In the meantime, he says the company is in growth mode and has hired 15 employees since it laid off workers last year.

– with files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press

Nanaimo News Bulletin