Medical marijuana cookie case hits Canada’s high court

Supreme Court hears edible pot safety, health arguments in B.C. challenge of criminalized derivatives

B.C. lawyer Kirk Tousaw (left)

Turning medical marijuana into cookies, tea or oil should not be a criminal act that risks jail time, a B.C. lawyer told the Supreme Court of Canada Friday in the first ever hearing of its kind.

Kirk Tousaw appeared before the country’s top court to argue the ban on cannabis derivatives, extracts and edibles like pot brownies is unconstitutional and that authorized medical marijuana patients should be free to use the drug in whatever form works best for them, not just the dried plant, which is the only medical exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The federal government is appealing the dismissal by B.C. courts of drug trafficking charges against Owen Smith, a Victoria man caught baking pot cookies for members of a local compassion club.

It’s the first time a medical marijuana issue has made it to the Supreme Court after a series of court rulings that have forced Ottawa to provide physician-authorized access to the drug.

RELATED:
VIDEO STREAM: Full hearing before Supreme Court of Canada

High court to decide right to pot cookies

Tousaw said many medical marijuana patients don’t want to smoke pot all day long to relieve symptoms and would rather eat it as the medicinal effects are longer lasting and more effective than when inhaled.

He pointed to the testimony of Gina Herman, a patient who brewed tea from her medical marijuana – technically an illegal act.

“She’s perfectly fine holding her dried cannabis, but she’s not fine holding her medicinal tea out of it,” Tousaw told the court. “That highlights the arbitrariness of these restrictions.”

He noted the trial judge in the case agreed ingesting edibles is “as safe or safer than smoking.”

Ottawa could readily regulate medical pot derivatives as it does natural health products without criminalizing them, Tousaw added.

Crown prosecutor Paul Riley argued medical marijuana patients have legitimate alternatives to smoking, including vaporizing and the use of approved cannabis-based drugs that come as pills, capsules or oral sprays.

He said advocates merely prefer an illegal form of the drug when legal options exist.

If government is forced by the courts to allow medical marijuana, he said, it’s reasonable to exclude forms for which there is no scientific evidence of the benefits or safety.

“We don’t know the implications and effects of derivative marijuana,” Riley told the court. “We don’t know those things so we’re not going to regulate them.”

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin questioned whether criminal sanctions are appropriate.

“You’re putting people in risk of imprisonment as opposed to the usual regulatory scheme,” she said, triggering applause from the gallery.

Riley said the Victoria dispensary where Smith baked was producing massive quantities of edible pot products for dubious reasons.

He said the Cannabis Buyers Club of Canada there had nearly 4,000 members, only five to 10 per cent of whom had medical marijuana permits, and a club representative admitted having to cancel more than 500 memberships of people suspected of reselling pot.

Riley likened the case to a failed challenge by raw milk advocates of laws requiring pasteurization. Ontario courts rejected the argument their constitutional rights were violated.

“Unless you can show something is safe and therapeutically effective it shouldn’t be authorized,” Riley said, citing drugs like thalidomide that “people assumed were okay but turned out not to be.”

The ruling isn’t expected until at least summer but when it comes it could force significant changes to how medical marijuana is regulated in Canada.

The government’s new commercial pot production system offers only dried pot.

A separate challenge before the courts led by Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy seeks to ensure patients can continue to grow their own marijuana and not be limited just to buying from commercial producers.

Just Posted

Overnight chill falls short of Feb. 21 records

Icy temperatures across the Okanagan-Shuswap don’t beat lows set in 1910, 1894

Sicamous arena treating for ammonia

Testing ordered of public facilities following fatal leak at Fernie arena.

Vortex skaters set for Games

North Okanagan well represented in many sports for B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops

Semi loses wheel, causes collision

No injuries in collision east of Sicamous involving transport trucks

Young Salmon Arm athletes gear up for the 2018 BC Winter Games

20 competitors across five events vying for the podium in Kamloops

Your Feb. 21 Morning Brief

Check out the top stories of the day in the Okanagan-Shuswap with Carmen Weld’s Black Press Morning Brief.

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Driver rescued down 90-foot embankment along Coquihalla

Rope rescue conducted on mutual-aid call with Chilliwack SAR, Hope SAR and Agassiz fire department

Thief helps himself to cash register

Vernon business asking for public’s help to identify suspect

Slow speed head-on crash with police car

A vehicle crashed head-on into a police car in Kamloops this morning

BCHL Today: Merritt peaking at right time and Taylor signs with UNH Wildcats

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Day 100

Parkview Elementary student Myles Low shows off his hand-made eyewear celebrating the… Continue reading

Video: B.C. firefighters featured in quirky video

Oliver Fire Department posts video about their B.C. volunteer firefighter spring training seminar

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Two more medals push Canada into third place

A gold in ski cross and a bronze in bobsleigh as men’s hockey advances to the semis

Most Read