Relax & Eat Cookies!
The Canadian medical marijuana program is setting a precedence that many hope the US will soon follow. However, being the first country in North America to federally legalize marijuana means that the Canadian program also has a few flaws. Some of the weaknesses of MMPR include prohibiting Licensed Producers (LPs) from advertising which dampens market growth. It requires all sales to be made by mail thus eliminating dispensaries which have the potential to up-sell many cannabis products at the point of sale. And, more prominently, MMPR completely overlooks regulations for the edibles and extracts markets. This means that in Canada, it is illegal for anyone to possess lotions or other products that may contain extracts such as edibles and nutraceuticals.
This oversight of regulation led to the ruling of a British Columbia Court of Appeals judge that deemed the law unconstitutional. The case began in 2012 when Owen Smith was arrested while baking marijuana infused cookies to distribute at a cannabis club for patients with severe illnesses. He was charged with possession of THC with the intent to distribute—the THC being baked into the cookies! The original judge ruled in favor of Mr. Smith however, the government fought to appeal the ruling.
The British Columbia Court of Appeals August 2014 ruling is considered a minor victory since the issue has become even more complicated. You see, since the original arrest and case in 2012, parliament has passed the MMPR, so the judge’s ruling that MMAR was unconstitutional does not apply to the new law. The newer MMPR program simply replaced state-monopolized production and the ability for patients to grown their own supply with controlled and highly regulated licensed production, it still does not address the issue of extraction and prohibits consumption of any alternative methods such as edibles, oils, or capsules. The law specifies that the only form permissible is the dried cannabis flower.
While many agree that the ruling is a pivotal case and positive sign for the cannabis industry. Kirk Tousaw, a cannabis lawyer in British Columbia explained that LPs in Canada are prohibited from making edibles or concentrates but it will allow for a patient of an MMPR to make their own. He points out that the normal extraction process requires the use of butane and is not safe to do in a residential area. Even baking with cannabis should not be something attempted by an amateur. It is difficult for a novice user to obtain proper dosing and could result in edibles that are too potent, causing adverse side effects when ingested.
In summary, the Canadian law was found unconstitutional on the grounds that enforcing only consumption of the dried cannabis plant imposes upon ones civil liberties. People who have a prescription for marijuana should have the right to choose how they consume their medication. If the true focus of the MMAR and MMPR is safety, it would go completely against the current arguments of the government to continue to ban LPs from producing extracts. Furthermore, if patients are to be granted legal access to derivatives, then it should be open for all to enter the industry and left to those who have sufficient knowledge and experience. In the near future, one can expect that Canada will likely reform the current law to allow LPs to work with extracts but for the time being, the responsibility of extraction and creation of edibles is on the shoulders of the patient.