It's been a busy day for B.C. lawyer Kirk Tousaw.
He's been doing many media interviews after winning a landmark marijuana case in the Supreme Court of Canada.
And when he contacted the Georgia Straight, he fielded questions on a range of legal issues ranging from dispensaries to the impact of the ruling on other cases before the courts.
But his most colourful quotes came in response to Health Minister Rona Ambrose's comment that she's "outraged" by the Supreme Court of Canada decision.
"I think what's outrageous is to have a health minister of this country that is utterly ignorant on the topic of medicinal cannabis," Tousaw declared.
He claimed that Ambrose doesn't even believe that cannabis is medicine.
This is the case even though she's responsible for overseeing Canada's medicinal-cannabis program.
"[She] is busy blaming the courts when she should really be looking at her own office instead of vitriolicly condemning a unanimous Supreme Court of Canada decision with a bunch of justices that her boss [Stephen Harper] appointed to that court," Tousaw said. "Maybe go back to the drawing board, listen to patients for a change, and come up with a system that is going to work."
The case was about legal standing
Much of the media coverage has focused on why the court overturned a federal ban on consuming edible forms of marijuana for medical purposes. But Tousaw emphasized that his client, Owen Smith, achieved more than that.
"It has to do with standing," Tousaw said. "The Crown suggested that Mr. Smith ought not to be able to challenge these laws because he himself wasn't a patient."
Smith had been charged with trafficking for baking cookies with marijuana extracts for a compassion club. In this decision, Tousaw noted, the court reconfirmed a long-standing legal principle.
"If the law is unconstitutional for one person, it's unconstitutional for every person," he said. "And no one can be convicted for violating an unconstitutional law. That is a pretty important takeaway."
Dispensaries could benefit from decision
He also suggested that the Supreme Court of Canada ruling could provide a "legitimate defence" for marijuana dispensaries if they're charged criminally for selling edible products.
"They're really stepping into a supply void created by an unconstitutionally restrictive government program," Tousaw said. "Factually, the Supreme Court [of Canada] has accepted the decisions of the courts below finding that edibles are essentially relatively safe substances. And that they provide patients with treatment options that are necessary, effective, and possibly safer than smoking."
He added that the Supreme Court of Canada ruling could also have an impact on dispensary regulations being developed by the City of Vancouver.
City still wants ban on cannabis edibles
Meanwhile, the chief medical health officer of Vancouver Coastal Heath, Dr. Patricia Daly, has argued that the city should ban the sale of baked goods containing marijuana. That's because they haven't been tested by food inspectors.
Tousaw, however, opposes the city's proposal to prohibit dispensaries from selling edible products containing cannabis.
"When you have the City of Vancouver talking about an absolute ban on edibles based on sort of fear of harm—fear of harm to health—the factual findings of the Supreme Court of Canada seem to undermine that concern fairly significantly," he noted.
After today's ruling was issued, the City of Vancouver issued a statement reiterating staff's recommendation to ban cannabis in food. The city claimed that "wider availability of these products is causing increased poisonings in children" in the U.S.
The city's proposed ban on cannabis-laced food products does not apply to the sale of edible oils in sealed containers.
"The sale of oils allows individuals to create their own edibles and the proposed regulations do not compromise the individual's right to access edible medical marijuana," the city stated.
Court declaration is significant
Tousaw pointed out that in previous cases the Supreme Court of Canada has given the federal government a one-year reprieve. This occurred perhaps most notably with assisted-suicide and prostitution,
This gave Parliament time to rewrite a law to bring it in compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Tousaw said that in today's cannabis ruling, however, the court did not provide the government with any grace period.
"The decision goes into effect immediately," he states. "So patients that went to bed last night criminals for possessing cannabis cookies wake up this morning, and they're no longer criminals. That's a pretty important step forward because it doesn't let the Harper government weasel out of complying with this decision."
Tousaw also noted that the ruling is not confined to the old Medical Marihuana Access Regulations. They were replaced with a new set of regulations in 2013 called the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations.
"It also applies to the MMPR—or really any legislated scheme—because the declaration was in relationship to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, not any of the exemption schemes the government has come up with under that act," Tousaw said. "That has a pretty important effect on the development of future jurisprudence in this area."
That's because the ruling stated that sections 4 and 5 of the act "are of no force and effect" with regard to prohibitions on those with medical authorization from possessing cannabis derivatives.
In fact, Tousaw added, it could have a "ripple effect" on other cases before the courts, including those known as Allard and Garber.
The Allard case involves the right of people to grow their own marijuana for medicinal purposes. As the law currently stands, people must buy medicinal cannabis from companies licensed by the federal government and only with a prescription from a medical doctor.
The Garber case deals with non-dried forms of marijuana, including oils and resin, which are not approved under the MMPR.
"The ban on edibles caused harm and prevented the use of essentially safer and more effective treatment options for patients," Tousaw said. "That's arbitrary."