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 CanadaHigh 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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Indigenous youth occupy B.C. Legislature steps despite court injunction

Police negotiating with people gathered in support of some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

‘Not the monster everyone thinks’: Sister of human-trafficking suspect speaks out

Trish Kelly’s brother was one of four Vancouver Island residents arrested last month in Saskatchewan

Oak Bay ups deer management budget to $96,100 for 2020

Provincial grant approved for deer contraception program

Old Town hotel developer says full retention of historic buildings ‘impossible’

UVic development partner says past renovations, seismic instability are barriers

Battling bullying covers a lot of ground, says Safe Schools manager for Sooke School District

Jamie Adair’s background is tailor-made for the work he does with the… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

RCMP pull office from Wet’suwet’en territory, but hereditary chiefs still want patrols to end

Chief says temporary closure of field office not enough as Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute drags on

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Okanagan man swims across Columbia River to evade Trail police

RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid says the incident began the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20

‘Hilariously bad’: RCMP looking for couple with forged, paper Alberta licence plate

Mounties said the car crashed when it lost a wheel but the duo ran away as police arrived

Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sex crimes in landmark #MeToo trial

The cases against the Hollywood mogul started the #MeToo movement

Most Read