Kirk Tousaw is an acknowledged authority on laws regarding marijuana. He's testified on several occasions before parliamentary committees on the topic.
Tousaw also recently argued the landmark Owen Smith case before the Supreme Court of Canada.
In this instance, the Conservative government is trying to overturn a B.C. Court of Appeal decision dismissing trafficking charges against Smith, who baked cookies for a compassion club.
For years, Tousaw has been witnessing how governments have made it difficult for patients with serious medical conditions to obtain medical cannabis.
But the B.C. lawyer declared that he was "absolutely gobsmacked" when he learned that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. had distributed a memo requiring doctors to adhere to an age limit on patients who may receive medical cannabis.
"I mean, these are people who have had significant training in the sciences and in medicine," Tousaw said. "For that type of organization to publish a document or some guidelines that are so unscientific—that are so lacking in empirical justification—it just shows how much progress we still need to make to overcome some of the myths and the stigmas associated with the consumption of cannabis for medical purposes."
The Straight reported this week that the physicians' regulatory body's professional standards and guidelines memo states that it's "not appropriate" to sign a medical document to allow anyone under 25 to have legal access to cannabis.
Tousaw said he was shocked that this age limit was imposed when cannabis has been demonstrated as an effective treatment for a range of conditions, including Dravet Syndrome. It's a rare, lifelong, genetically caused form of epilepsy that begins in infancy.
Medical cannabis is used as a pain reliever for conditions ranging from cancer to multiple sclerosis to Crohn's disease.
"Epilepsy doesn't have an age limit," Tousaw scoffed. "Cancer doesn't have an age limit."
In addition, the college memo concluded that cannabis shouldn't be used by people with cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, a substance-use disorder, a cannabis disorder, or a history of psychosis.
The college's senior deputy registrar, Dr. Galt Wilson, told the Straight that the memo is now being revised to address input from doctors.
Tousaw noted that marijuana is safer than prescription drugs that physicians already prescribe to children in appropriate circumstances.
He declared that it's "shocking" for "a college to come up with a set of guidelines that is so divorced from empirical reality".
Meanwhile, Kamloops emergency-room physician Ian Mitchell told the Straight earlier this week that the college's rules are "excessive" and "make it almost impossible for anybody to comply with them".
Last month, Mitchell told the Straight that preliminary evidence suggests that medical cannabis might be effective in treating posttraumatic stress disorder.
His research team hopes to recruit people this fall for a study looking at this issue in greater detail. They plan to pay special attention to an extract from marijuana plants known as cannabidiol, also known as CBD.
Mitchell also said last month that CBD has been demonstrated in studies to be an effective antipsychotic.
But according to the now-recalled memo from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C., doctors cannot make medical cannabis available to anyone who's demonstrated psychosis in the past.
Tousaw said that he believes that the college risks having its medical-cannabis rules being found to be "patently unreasonable" by a judge.
"If they put these kinds of shackles on individual physicians to the detriment of sick British Columbians, we will be in the courts pretty quickly," Tousaw emphasized. "We'll be looking at judicial review. At a certain point when you are causing suffering—make no mistake, they will be causing suffering with this—you should be held liable for that."
Kirk Tousaw will join lawyer John Conroy at a Continuing Legal Education Society of B.C. seminar at the Pan Pacific Hotel or via live webinar on May 29. It will address the changing legal landscape for medical cannabis in Canada.