Health Canada is clarifying its rules for licensed medical marijuana producers to allow them to produce and sell cannabis oil, as well as fresh buds and leaves, following a Supreme Court decision that lets patients use pot derivatives.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose had initially said she was outraged by the Supreme Court of Canada decision, which lets patients consume marijuana, not just smoke it. The government had tried to limit medical pot use to dried marijuana only.

But the ruling left a grey area with producers being limited under the law to selling dried forms of marijuana even though patients were allowed to consume other forms.

In a statement Wednesday, Health Canada said the new interpretation was effective immediately and intended to eliminate uncertainty.

Producers are not allowed to sell plant material that could be used to grow pot, the statement said. It also reiterated that compassion clubs and dispensaries are illegal.

'Dragged kicking and screaming'

Ambrose said her department was meeting "the requirements dictated by the Supreme Court of Canada."

"Health Canada is doing so in a manner that respects the rule of law, protects public health and public safety, and reflects the serious health risks with marijuana, especially for youth," Ambrose said in a statement released by her office.

"Canadian courts have once again required government to allow access to marijuana when authorized by a physician.... Marijuana is neither an approved drug nor medicine in Canada and Health Canada does not endorse its use."

Ambrose's statement makes three separate references to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who has called for marijuana to be legalized and regulated. The Conservatives frequently attack Trudeau's position on marijuana, alleging he would make it easier for teens to get pot.

Kirk Tousaw, the lawyer who represented the respondent in the Supreme Court case, said he was surprised Health Canada is taking small steps to progress, but noted the federal department had to be "dragged kicking and screaming" by the court.

Tousaw said he's concerned the licensed producers still aren't allowed to sell products other than oil and fresh bud and leaves — for example, it remains illegal for them to sell brownies, tea or other products that are now legal for medical marijuana patients to consume.

A number of producers hailed the move, saying they were pleased they could serve patients.


  • This story has been updated from an earlier version that said Health Minister Rona Ambrose made the announcement in Edmonton. In fact, Health Canada issued a news release about clarifying the medical marijuana rules, and Ambrose did not make the announcement.
    Jul 08, 2015 1:11 PM ET