Medical marijuana patients will now be able to consume marijuana — and not just smoke it — as well as use other extracts and derivatives, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled today.
The unanimous ruling against the federal government expands the definition of medical marijuana beyond the “dried” form.
The country’s highest court found the current restriction to dried marijuana violates the right to liberty and security “in a manner that is arbitrary and hence is not in accord with the principles of fundamental justice.”
Restricting medical access to marijuana to a dried form has now been declared “null and void” — Sections 4 and 5 of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, which prohibits possession of non-dried forms of cannabis, will no longer be in effect.
The decision upholds earlier rulings by lower courts in British Columbia that said they went against a person’s right to consume medical marijuana in the form they choose.
Many users felt smoking it was even potentially harmful. However, methods such as brewing marijuana leaves in tea or baking cannabis into brownies left patients vulnerable to being charged with possession and trafficking under the law.
According to evidence submitted to a prior judge, it came down to forcing a person to choose between a legal but inadequate treatment, and an illegal but more effective choice.
Arrest of pot baker sparked court challenge
The case stems from the 2009 arrest of Owen Smith in Victoria.
Smith, a baker for the Victoria Cannabis Buyers’ Club, was found with more than 200 cookies and 26 jars of liquids, including cannabis-infused massage oils and lip balms. The baker was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and unlawful possession of marijuana.
The club delivers medical marijuana products to its members.
Smith was acquitted by a British Columbia judge, who gave the federal government a year to change the laws around extracts.
A B.C. Appeal Court also ruled in Smith’s favour, leading the federal government to take the case to Canada’s top court.
The Appeal Court had also suspended its declaration for a year to give Parliament time to rewrite the law. The Supreme Court has now deleted that suspension, saying otherwise it would “leave patients without lawful medical treatment and the law and law enforcement in limbo.”
Thursday’s decision also affirms Smith’s acquittal.
Read more about Steven Peters.