Ottawa has said it will allow authorized producers of medicinal marijuana to sell cannabis oil in addition to selling marijuana in its dried form.
In response to a June 11 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, a government news release issued today (July 8) states cannabis oil will now be exempted from Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Health Canada’s interpretation of the ruling does not mention marijuana edibles or any of its forms such as brownies or gummy candies. But Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer who argued the case on behalf of Victoria resident Owen Smith, told the Straight it is clear the federal government is now allowing producers to sell cannabis extracts in the form of foods or drinks.
“They are not allowing edibles,” Tousaw said in a telephone interview. “It’s a small step in the right direction. But it’s just such a cynical response. While it appears to be an opening up, it is really, in my view, an attempt to restrict the scope of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision.”
The Health Canada release pertains to medicinal marijuana sold by authorized producers licensed under the federal Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. The changes take effect immediately. The do not apply to Vancouver’s dozens of storefront dispensaries, which remain illegal under federal law despite the City of Vancouver having recently passed bylaws to regulate their operations.
On June 11, the Supreme Court unanimously found it was unconstitutional for the federal government to dictate which forms of medicinal marijuana patients would be allowed to access. The judges’ decision said that by only allowing people to ingest medicinal marijuana in its dried form and via smoking, the government could be harming people’s health on account of smoking’s connections to respiratory diseases.
Tousaw argued the government is trying to meet the requirements of the court’s decision without allowing for edibles. He suggested the government will maintain it is not restricting what forms of marijuana people can access because its interpretation permits people to purchase cannabis oil, which they can then use themselves to make edibles.
“It’s much like the City of Vancouver, actually,” Tousaw observed. “It is pretty ironic that after [Health Minister] Rona Ambrose blows a gasket because the City of Vancouver implements this bylaw regulating dispensaries, that Health Canada actually appropriates and copies part of that bylaw, in terms of the restriction on edibles and the allowing of just cooking oils to be sold.”
On June 24, Vancouver became the first city in Canada to regulate the over-the-counter sale of medicinal marijuana. Ambrose responded to that decision by city council with a press release that emphasizes health risks associated with smoking marijuana.
Under the federal government’s system for the distribution of medicinal cannabis, the drug can only be obtained via mail order from a relatively small number of licensed producers.