The former head baker of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers’ Club heads to Ottawa today in hopes of overturning Canada’s medical marijuana laws and securing the right for patients to use cannabis oils, cookies, teas and lotions.
Owen Edward Smith will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada on Friday after victories at the B.C. Court of Appeal and B.C. Supreme Court.
It’s the first time Canada’s highest court has heard a medical marijuana case.
Smith was arrested at a Victoria apartment in 2009 and charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking THC after police found pot cookies and other cannabis-infused foodstuffs on the premises.
Smith’s lawyer, Kirk Tousaw, successfully argued before the lower courts that Canada’s laws are unconstitutional because they restrict seriously ill patients to possessing and smoking “dried marijuana,” while barring them from using other cannabis products.
The B.C. Supreme Court judge found that the regulations violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He struck the word “dried” from the regulations and acquitted Smith.
The Court of Appeal upheld that ruling by a split 2-1 decision. The dissenting judge argued that the regulations did not impinge on the liberty or security of the person rights of medical marijuana users, and that Smith did not have standing to bring a constitutional challenge.
The federal government appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Cannabis Buyers’ Club founder Ted Smith — no relation to Owen — hopes the trip to highest court will be the final step toward making cannabis products legal for patients across the country.
He noted, for instance, that it’s against the law to put cannabis into water to make tea, because that’s technically producing the drug THC.
“We find [it] quite absurd that our government would essentially force patients to smoke this plant instead of using all the other alternatives, which are much more medically beneficial to many patients,” Ted Smith told a news conference in Victoria to mark International Medical Marijuana Day.
“Here in the Victoria Cannabis Buyers’ Club, we have sought very hard to provide these products to patients at the lowest possible cost,” he said.
“We believe that we have prolonged the lives of thousands of individuals and helped many individuals suffering from a variety of medical problems.”
Owen Smith said many of those patients would be unable to afford such a lengthy legal challenge, so he’s proud to be fighting on their behalf.
“I’m very excited to represent such a brave and courageous group of people, who not only have to maintain their own health, but they have to fight for their right to maintain their own health every day.”
His challenge is supported by intervenors from HIV/AIDS organizations, the B.C. and Canadian Civil Liberties Associations, and the Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario.
“We’re very confident that we’re going to win,” Ted Smith said.
“I don’t think there’s a reasonable body in Canada that would think patients should be forced to smoke this plant and not have access to a cookie.”