Marijuana activist and baker Owen Smith is celebrating after the Supreme Court of Canada expanded the definition of medical marijuana to include edible products like cannabis oils, teas and brownies.
Six years ago, Smith was caught with more than 200 pot cookies baked for the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club. His arrest set in motion a legal battle that wound its way to the Supreme Court.
Thursday's unanimous ruling against the federal government means medical marijuana patients will be able to consume marijuana in all forms — and not just smoke it — as well as use other extracts and derivatives.
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CBC's All Points West host Robyn Burns spoke to Smith following Thursday's ruling.
What was your reaction to today's decision?
I was very happy obviously to be vindicated on the highest level that Canadian courts can go.
I was greeted immediately by the gratitude of people across the country that use these products for very serious conditions and no longer have to worry about going to jail for doing that.
On Facebook, the topic was trending. It was very hard for me to keep up with all of the messages and how many times I was tagged.
Why do you think there is so much opposition from the federal government to expand the definition of medical marijuana?
What they are fighting against is not marijuana, it is the people that are using the plant.
A lot of these are families and some of them have such serious conditions that nobody would argue with giving them an opportunity to stop, for instance, the seizures that are occurring for some of these young people.
The federal government says it will fight against the normalization of marijuana. How much does that concern you?
I wouldn't be surprised if they put up roadblocks. When I was arrested we were just seeing the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for doing the things that I was doing. They fought me all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which must have cost Canadians quite a lot of money.
They really did lose quite poorly … because they had no evidence to support their claims. The judges saw the expert witnesses in trial and reviewed it extensively, and it is very clear that cannabis is an effective medicine for people who really need it for quality of life.
What are the benefits of consuming medical marijuana in forms other than smoking?
Smoking it is a crude way of ingesting it and, really, any other medicine; you would have developed it into a pill, so people could eat it. When you eat a medicine it has a longer duration of effect.
If you have chronic conditions, which is very common for people seeking cannabis medicine, you want to have those effects last throughout the night, and that can happen when you eat it much easier than when you inhale it.
Do you think more people will consider taking medical marijuana now that it is legally available in other forms?
I do think that people who wouldn't like to smoke or inhale cannabis … will now begin to realize that there are sensible options to ingest your cannabis for medicinal purposes that don't resemble anything recreational. What we have from a medicinal standpoint is more like pills, creams or oils.
How do you ensure the medical marijuana industry is safe for consumers?
The clubs that are popping up have popped up to fill these gaps and they are not being regulated.
I know there are organizations within the dispensary scene that are trying to establish safe standards and guidelines. But it's really something that deserves to have oversight, and dispensaries have always been asking to be part of the system … so they can improve their services, but have come up against the criminal law consistently.
There are people that would really like to help to improve this program, so in order to make that happen it would be great to work together with the government.
What's next for you?
I'm just finishing writing a book about my experiences with this trial, as well as outlining the scientific details that were explained and some recipes that we use at the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club.
To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled Owen Smith Q&A.