Victoria pot dispensary back in appeal court

Lawyers fighting to uphold a ruling that allows the society to sell edible and topical marijuana products to patients

Lawyers representing a former employee of a downtown Victoria medicinal marijuana dispensary are back in court today, fighting to uphold a ruling that allows the society to sell edible and topical marijuana products to patients.

In 2012, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Johnston concluded that a section of Health Canada’s Marijuana Medical Access Regulations that allowed only dried marijuana for patients was unconstitutional under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling stemmed from the 2009 arrest of Owen Smith, a former cook for the Victoria Cannabis Buyers’ Club (formerly the Cannabis Buyers’ Club of Canada).

“The evidence on trial was very clear that these patients weren’t just preferring tasty cookies … but in fact they derived significant medicinal and therapeutic benefit from the different products,” said Kirk Tousaw, Smith’s lawyer.

In its appeal, the Crown will argue that Johnston misinterpreted and applied too broadly the Charter rights of medicinal marijuana patients, Tousaw said.

If the B.C. Court of Appeal ruling is not unanimous, the case could then end up before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Health Canada has so far ignored Johnston’s ruling and refused to consent to producing alternative medicinal marijuana products.

“It’s not just about medicinal cannabis, it’s about the right of patients to autonomously decide what they put into their own bodies to help their serious illnesses without threat of criminal sanction,” Tousaw said.

Ted Smith, the former owner of the Cannabis Buyers’ Club, declared bankruptcy earlier this year after the Canada Revenue Agency requested $150,000 in back taxes for medicinal marijuana sales.

The club now operates as a non-profit society, Smith said.

“We want to teach the world how to make medicine with this plant,” he said. “The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t need to profit off and control this plant in the way it does off normal drugs.”

The federal government will phase out its existing medicinal marijuana licence program, which permits patients to grow a small amount of marijuana at home, by March 31, 2014. The program will be replaced with a commercial model that permits only mail delivery of marijuana to authorized patients.