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)

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.

Just Posted

Aidan See played for the North Island Silvertips during the 2019-2020 season. (PHOTO COURTESY RON HAYES)
VIJHL: Port Alberni Bombers add hometown talent to roster

Junior B hockey club signs Aidan See, Blake Power and Grayson Erickson

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read