Pubdate: Fri, 15 Aug 2014
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2014 Times Colonist
Author: Sandra McCulloch
Page: A1


Medical Marijuana OK'd In Oil, Brownies

Patients can take their medical marijuana in oils, cookies and teas 
after B.C.'s highest court ruled that federal health laws limiting 
use to dried leaves are unconstitutional.

The B.C. Court of Appeal released its 2-1 ruling on Thursday, 
upholding a lower court decision in the case of Victoria resident 
Owen Smith, who was charged in 2009 with possession for trafficking 
of THC, marijuana's active compound. Smith, arrested while baking 
cookies for the Cannabis Buyers Club of Canada, was also charged with 
possession of dried marijuana.

He successfully argued in B.C. Supreme Court that Canada's medical 
marijuana laws are unconstitutional because they fail to allow people 
with a medical need to possess cannabis in forms - such as body 
creams, butters, brownies and teas - other than dried plant material.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge acquitted Smith on both counts and ordered 
the word "dried" and the definition of "dried marijuana" to be 
deleted from the regulations. The Crown appealed.

The Appeal Court upheld the earlier decision, stating that medical 
marijuana access regulations infringe on the charter rights of people 
who require other forms of cannabis to treat illnesses.

"The regulatory interest of the state is in ensuring that the volume 
of marijuana available for medical use is consistent with that use - 
apart from that, it has no interest in how an individual ingests the 
drug," said Justice Nicole Garson, writing for the majority.

The Appeal Court ruled its judgment may be suspended for one year to 
allow Parliament time to amend regulations so that they are constitutional.

Smith's lawyer, Kirk Tousaw, who also represents other medical 
marijuana-related litigants, said his client is pleased the court 
will allow patients to decide what mode of ingestion works best for 
their symptoms and conditions.

"How many people out there really think that a critically and 
chronically ill member of their family shouldn't be entitled to eat a 
medical marijuana cookie if that relieves their pain?" Tousaw said.

"We're talking about the right of patients to find some relief from 
their very serious symptoms and conditions. It's about time our 
government stopped wasting our money trying to prevent people from doing that."

Ted Smith (no relation to Owen Smith), the founder the Victoria 
Cannabis Buyers Club, said 10 per cent of its members would prefer 
marijuana derivatives to the dried leaves.

"This is like a new era in medical marijuana," he said. "Allowing 
patients to smoke cannabis is one step. Allowing them to make 
cannabis derivatives opens up huge possibilities for the use of this medicine."

Smith called the judgment "a huge victory for patients across the 
country, who can now make cannabis derivatives without fear of 
criminal charges."

Having an exemption for dried marijuana but none for derivative 
products "seemed nonsensical," said lawyer Paul Pearson, co-chairman 
of the Canadian Bar Association's criminal justice branch in Victoria.

"The court is just bringing the medical marijuana regulations in 
compliance with common sense. If you can have dried marijuana, why 
can't you have marijuana oil or marijuana cookies?"

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose was not available for an 
interview. Her department said it is reviewing the decision and 
considering its options.

The difficulty with the law is that it makes it legal to use pot in 
your own kitchen, but illegal to pay someone with sophisticated 
equipment to do it for you, Tousaw said.

"If my grandma wants to use medical cannabis to deal with arthritis 
pain, I think she should be entitled to go and purchase it from 
someone who can say, 'Look, eat half a cookie and you're ingesting 14 
mg of THC,' " he said. "Then she can know for herself what the 
appropriate dosage is."
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