Medical Marijuana Laws On Trial in Canada

Medical Marijuana Laws On Trial in Canada

Canada’s ambiguous laws concerning medical marijuana may be overhauled for good in the coming months. Later this year, justices on the Canadian Supreme Court are expected to reach a decision regarding the legality of consumable products derived from marijuana — including edibles and oils.

The case began in 2009 when former head baker of the Cannabis Buyer’s Club of Canada, Owen Edward Smith, was charged for possessing baked goods and oils which contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). According to section 55(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), only dried marijuana can be obtained for medicinal purposes—edibles and extracts are not covered under this section and are therefore illegal.

Despite being acquitted of his charges, Smith had to argue for his freedom once more, only this time in front of Canada’s Supreme Court. In fact, the ruling from British Columbia’s highest court not only acquitted him, but it also ordered the government to change its laws pertaining to cannabis extracts. Instead of taking the sensible ruling of Smith’s home province to heart, the Canadian Crown has decided to try its own hand at convicting the baker as a drug dealer.

Kirk Tousaw, who represents Smith in front of the Supreme Court, argues that the law is not only arbitrary, but it also makes it possible for medical marijuana patients to be unfairly victimized by the legal system. The focal point of his argument was to clear up the current ambiguities in Canada’s medical marijuana laws so that law-abiding citizens are not suddenly cast as criminals without their knowledge.

“As long as she keeps the strainer in the water and drinks the tea with the dried marijuana, she’s not breaking the law,”

Tousaw said, referring to a critically ill trial witness.

“But the minute she takes the tea strainer out of the cup, she’s now holding and possessing THC, which is not lawful.”

Representing the Crown as the prosecutor in this case is Paul Riley, who had hoped to steer things in a completely different direction. Instead of arguing for a need to clear up the legal ambiguities pertaining to dried marijuana and consumable extracts, Riley put the onus on medical users to follow the law as written. He claimed that those who sought legal exemption for extracts would rather choose an illegal form of cannabis consumption instead of the government-approved options. Moreover, in what would appear to be an act of desperation, Riley asked the court to exercise “judicial deference” by stepping down and allowing the government to figure things out.

Fortunately, that did not happen—and the justices were not thrilled with Riley’s arguments, to boot. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin told the prosecutor during the hearing:

“Confine your points to things that really matter.”

In the end, it’s hard to say what the high court’s decision will be in the coming months. However, it seems that Smith’s attorney, unlike the Crown prosecutor, confined his case to sensible arguments that may serve to make things a bit easier for medical marijuana patients in Canada. One hopes that Canada’s Supreme Court justices see things the same way.

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