Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Matthew DeCloedt, a law student at Central European University and a participant in the Cannabis: Global Histories conference held from April 19-20, 2018, at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. DeCloedt brings a legal lens to the conversation surrounding medical marijuana in Canada, with a specific focus on human rights. Enjoy!
To understand how Canada went from limited access to cannabis for therapeutic purposes to the impending legalization of recreational pot, it is crucial to understand the impact of human rights discourse on the erosion of impediments to accessing medical cannabis.
From the early 2000s, Canadian courts were a crucial forum for taking issue with the federal government’s restrictive cannabis law and policy.
Section 7 of the Canada Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which gives “Everyone…the right to life, liberty and the security of person,” was the most important of the rights invoked by litigants.
The success and failure of human rights claims depended on Canadian litigants’ ability to convince the courts that the threat of criminal sanctions for possessing and cultivating cannabis for therapeutic purposes violated their right to life, liberty and security of person. In other words, they asked whether prohibition was a proportional response to the supposed harms of using cannabis?