The Smith Case

On June 11, 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada released its historic decision in R v Smith in which they found that Health Canada’s attempt to prevent medical cannabis patients from accessing anything other than ‘dried marihuana’ to be unconstitutional. Owen Smith had been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking (under section 5 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act or the CDSA) and possession (s. 4 of the CDSA). Owen Smith worked for the Cannabis Buyers Club of Canada located on Vancouver Island. The police attended at Owen Smith’s apartment because a neighbour complained they could smell cannabis. While there to talk to Owen, the police saw cannabis. The police went and got a warrant and seized 211 cannabis cookies, a bag of dried cannabis, and 26 jars of cannabis balms and oils.

The Cannabis Buyers Club of Canada was owned and operated by long-time cannabis activist, Ted Smith, who played a large role in arranging for the funding and fundraising for this Herculean accomplishment. The case was argued by NORML Canada’s BC Regional Director, Kirk Tousaw. Mr. Tousaw won at trial, he won at the BC Court of Appeal, and he won at the Supreme Court of Canada. He was joined at the Supreme Court of Canada by NORML Canada’s President, John Conroy QC.

The trial judge found that for some patients alternate forms of cannabis were more medicinally effective than smoking cannabis. For example, edibles may aid gastro-intestinal conditions by direct delivery to the site of the pathology. Also, the slow release of edibles allows for a longer retention period which provides medicinal benefits for those with chronic conditions over an extended period of time. Further, the government is effectively forcing all medical cannabis patients to smoke their medicine which exposes patients to carcinogenic chemicals. As a result of these findings, the law was found to be contrary to the patient’s rights to liberty and security of the person for reasons that did not further the objective of the law: public health and safety. Put another way, the limits on medical cannabis patients were found to be arbitrary.

The remedy given by the court is an interesting one. The court issued a declaration that:

ss. 4 and 5 of the CDSA are of no force and effect to the extent that they prohibit a person with medical authorization from possessing cannabis derivatives for medical purposes.

This certainly permits those legally permitted to possess “dried marihuana” to possess cannabis extracts, edibles, and topicals. There are bigger questions that were not explicitly addressed such as who can legally sell / give derivatives and who can legally produce derivatives.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose said she is outraged by the decision.  It turns out the woman in charge of overseeing the medical cannabis program does not think cannabis is medicine. She does not like the idea that cannabis as medicine is being normalized. Her statements do not just reveal a profound ignorance of the mountain of peer-reviewed science on medical cannabis, but her views also show disrespect to the many cannabis patients suffering both from serious health issues and from prejudice and ignorance in the medical community and in society at large. Ms. Ambrose stokes the fires of ignorance.

NORML Canada applauds the great work by Kirk Tousaw, Owen Smith, Ted Smith, John Conroy, and many others in winning this historic case.

Tweed To Acquire Bedrocan Canada

On June 24, it was publicly announced that Tweed Marijuana Inc (operator of Tweed Inc) and Bedrocan Cannabis Corp. have entered into a definitive arrangement agreement in which Tweed will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Bedrocan Canada.

Tweed Marijuana Inc. (TMI) will function as a holding company for both Tweed Inc and Bedrocan. The deal would establish TMI as the world’s largest publicly traded medical marijuana producer. The acquisition is intended to be implemented by way of plan of arrangement and is currently expected to close by the end of August 2015.

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Vancouver First City in Canada to Regulate Illegal Marijuana Shops

Vancouver has become the first city in Canada to take the initiative to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries that had been providing medical marijuana illegally to licensed patients.

This move is a response to the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) which in a sense drives patients to purchase their medicine from only licensed producers (LPs). The mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, and the city council showed little patience for how the federal government has failed to adequately and reasonably provide access to medical marijuana. This has led to an explosion of medical dispensaries in Vancouver that can better accommodate access to medical marijuana.

The emergence of such technology is another reminder that cannabis legalization is upon us and with it the need for further knowledge on the composition of the plant as it pertains to safe dosages.

The regulations aim to strike a balance between keeping marijuana away from youth and providing medicine for patients in need. The regulations include a $30,000 license fee, a ban on edibles, and restrictions on locating within 300 metres of schools, community centres, and each other.

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Colorado Supreme Court Rules That Employees Can Be Fired for Their Marijuana Use

Brandon Coats, a registered medical marijuana user in Colorado, was fired in 2010 after a positive test for marijuana during a random drug test. Mr. Coats is a quadriplegic who worked for Dish Network in Colorado and uses medical cannabis at home during his non-work hours.

The Supreme Court in Colorado has ruled that Brandon Coats’ use of medical marijuana outside of his working hours was not “lawful” due to the inconsistency of the state and federal law and thus there were reasonable grounds for his dismissal. Further, the decision states that employees who engage in an activity such as the use of medical marijuana that is permitted by state law but unlawful by federal law are not protected under Colorado’s Lawful Activities statute.

This court case continues to highlight the ambiguity of marijuana laws everywhere. It also shows the limitations of the state laws that have allowed marijuana legalization since marijuana remains listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the federal government‎ of the United States.

Maine Rejects Bill To Legalize Marijuana In That State

The Maine House of Representatives has rejected a bill that seeks to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state. The bill would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and would set up a system to regulate and tax it. The bill also needs approval by voters in a statewide election. The Democratic-controlled House voted 98-45 against the bill on Monday June 22. It will now be considered by the Republican-controlled Senate.