Pubdate: Fri, 20 Mar 2015
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 The Windsor Star
Author: Ian MacLeod
Page: C6


OTTAWA - Canada's high court is contemplating whether it's a
constitutional right to munch cookies, brownies and oils laced with
medical marijuana.

Federal regulations restrict authorized users of physician-prescribed
cannabis to consuming only dried marijuana plants. Brewing pot in tea,
baking it into a brownie or any form of consumption other than smoking
the dried plant buds can trigger criminal trafficking and narcotics
possession charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The question Friday before the Supreme Court of Canada, in its first
foray into the medical marijuana debate, is whether the Health Canada
regulation violated medical marijuana users' constitutional right to
life, liberty and safety.

That's what Owen Smith contends. Police in 2009 found more than 200
pot cookies and cannabis-infused olive oil and grapeseed oil in his
Victoria apartment. The former head baker for the Cannabis Buyers Club
of Canada was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking
and unlawful possession of marijuana.

At Smith's 2012 trial, lawyer Kirk Tousaw argued the restrictive
regulation was unconstitutional and arbitrary, and did not further the
government's interest in protecting public health and safety. Instead,
it forces the critically and chronically ill to smoke medical
marijuana, which is potentially harmful, he said.

Even though Smith is not a medical marijuana user, a judge agreed.
Smith was acquitted of the drug offences. The Crown appealed and lost.
The majority decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled
the government had no basis to assert that transforming dried
marijuana into tea or baking oil put individuals at greater risk. It
gave the government until August to draft new regulations to allow
medicinal marijuana users to use products made from cannabis extract,
such as creams, oils and brownies.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada is now asking the Supreme
Court to strike down that judgment, rendered last August. It also
contends that since Smith is not a medical marijuana user, he should
have no standing to challenge the constitutional validity of the
regulation. The prosecution service declined to comment for this
story. The government does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the
courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana
when authorized by a physician.

There's concern, too, of pot-laced cookies and other illicit treats
being diverted to the black market, and of the difficulties police
would encounter trying to determine whether a batch of cookies or
brownies contained more dope than the patient was authorized to possess.

Tousaw sees it differently. Patients who find more effective and
potentially less harmful forms of cannabis have a right consume it the
way they please, he said in an interview Thursday.