By Ted Smith
Beginning on May 19 and 20 with the preliminary inquiry, the bakery trial of the Cannabis Buyers’ Clubs of Canada is bound to set precedent and determine federal policies. We need your help, to use this opportunity, to educate the public about the benefits of eating or topically applying cannabis for various medical needs. There are many things that you can do, whether you are a member of the club or not.
Sending letters and making phone calls to the local media when the preliminary inquiry is being held will convince them that the public is interested in the subject, and that at the very least they should be covering the trial. If an error or omission is made in reporting, we need people from far and wide to tell the news agency that their ignorance is inexcusable. Getting extensive media coverage of this trial is very important, as each report increases the public’s knowledge of the medical uses of cannabis, the efforts of our club, and the failures of Health Canada’s medical cannabis program.
Anyone hoping to get a seat in court should show up early. In fact, it is our hope that far more people come to watch than can fit into any courtroom in Victoria. Several local activists plan to stand outside of the courthouse on Blanshard St. with signs and banners expressing their support for legalization and frustration with the current laws.
At 1 pm, on both May 19 and 20, we will also be having a barbeque on the back lawn of the Victoria courthouse, serving up 101 free hemp burgers to supporters who come to help support the club. Cannabis seeds contain all eight essential fatty acids and amino acids in the perfect ratio necessary to sustain life, making it the healthiest food source on the planet. Many of the world’s food and energy problems would be solved if people could grow cannabis for seed.
While it might seem like we are kicking off the festivities before we have something to celebrate, there are many reasons to make a big scene around the courthouse on May 19 and 20, when the bakery trial is getting started. Instead of fearing the court system, we want to show the world that the cannabis community is tired of hiding and ready to make a stand. In many ways this epic battle was inevitable.
The CBC of C has been very proud to develop 29 cannabis food and skin products, many of which are unique to our club. Properly making these medicines creates a wonderful smell that can easily spread through a building and expose a cook to complaints. We were looking for a different location for the bakery, having already been kicked out of two other apartments for smelling the place up.
Complaints of smell and music from neighbours in the downtown apartment building, which housed the club’s bakery, led police to the door on Dec. 3, 2009. After answering the door, Owen Smith was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking THC, and possession for the purpose of trafficking cannabis.
In a surprise move, the crown, Peter Ecceles, has subpoenaed my partner, Gayle Quin. While there is some concern the crown may be trying to get her to incriminate herself in the activities, it is much more likely they are hoping to simply use her evidence to prove Owen had intent to distribute the cookies, oils, and other products found in the fridge. At the very least we hope her testimony will result in the return of the jars of extra virgin olive oil infused with arnica, St. Johns Wort, and comfrey that was seized along with the cannabis-infused butters and oils in the fridge.
Defence lawyer Kirk Tousaw should have plenty of evidence to convince the judge that a 20 day jury trial will be necessary to get through the opening statements, testimony of members of the club, expert witnesses, and closing arguments. Even though the 20 day jury trial is not expected to happen sooner than the fall of 2011, fundraising to cover the anticipated bill of $100,000 has already started. So far we have raised $10,000 with art auctions, parties, and donations. Usually people are afraid of going to court, but that is not the case here. There are significant problems with the current regime, and it seems the only regulatory changes made are reactions to court decisions.
There are many reasons the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations should be found unconstitutional. There are significant problems with people not being able to gain access to the program, since the vast majority of doctors refuse to sign the forms due to fear of harassment from Health Canada and other professional organizations, or ignorance of the benefits of the herb.
The core issue on trial will be whether THC should be included in the MMAR. Currently, the MMAR authorizes people to grow and smoke cannabis, but if the patient produces resin or extract the cannabinoids from the plant material in any manner before consuming it, they have made an illegal drug. This includes cooking cannabis into butter and extracting it with a cheese-cloth, or sifting the dry plant over a screen to make kief hash.
Synthetic THC, sold as Marinol or Dronabinol, has been available in Canada since 1986. According to Burns & Ineck (2006), “Dronabinol is known to produce mild side effects similar to cannabis. Many scientists believe that Dronabinol lacks the beneficial properties of cannabis, which contains more than 60 cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), thought to be the major anticonvulsant that helps multiple sclerosis patients; and cannabichromene (CBC), an anti-inflammatory which may contribute to the pain-killing effect of cannabis. Others have countered that the effects of all of cannabis’s cannabinoids have not been completely studied and are not fully understood.”
For many, the side effects of using synthetic THC are much more dramatic than edible natural THC, while the medical benefits are minimized by removing other important cannabinoids and the essential oils, in pharmaceutical versions. Each strain of cannabis has a unique combination of these chemicals, which means that different plants will generate different mental and physical reactions from a patient. It also means that each person will react somewhat differently to the same strain due to their unique mental and physical needs.
There are several reasons why synthetic THC is not as useful, for many patients, as edible whole plant cannabis products, or the common practice of inhaling. These disadvantages include increased cost, negative side effects, minimized benefit, unpleasant taste, dietary needs, and the delay of absorption. There is strong anecdotal evidence to suggest THC works best in combination with the other chemicals naturally available in the plant, and that medicines made from cannabis compliment other plant medicines when used together. As Wikipedia notes,
“It takes over one hour for Marinol to reach full systemic effect, compared to minutes for smoked or vaporized cannabis. Some patients accustomed to inhaling just enough cannabis smoke to manage symptoms have complained of too-intense intoxication from Marinol’s predetermined dosages. Many patients have said that Marinol produces a more acute psychedelic effect than cannabis, and it has been speculated that this disparity can be explained by the moderating effect of the many non-THC cannabinoids present in cannabis.” Mark Kleiman, director of Drug Policy Analysis Program at UCLA stated, “It wasn’t any fun and made the user feel bad, so it could be approved without any fear that it would penetrate the recreational market, and then used as a club with which to beat back the advocates of whole cannabis as a medicine.”
Pharmaceutical companies are quite aware of the problems associated with synthetic THC. In fact, they made sure it did not make people feel good so it would not be used as a recreational drug. These companies make money by selling different pills for different problems, considering side effects to be opportunities to develop new drugs. They avoid investment in drugs that cure because healthy people do not generate profits for drug companies. For drug companies to intentionally minimize the benefits a plant has to offer because it might make people feel too good, goes against everything that our health care system was meant for in the first place. Proving the benefits of whole cannabis plant medicines over synthetic THC in court and to the public is a very important part of these proceedings.
Pressure is mounting on Health Canada, from several directions, to include cannabis resin and THC in the MMAR. For many people smoking is either not preferable or maybe even possible. There is even a place on the forms to check off if you are consuming cannabis as an edible, but they do not tell patients that if they strain the plant material out they have become a criminal. Other patients contest that hash is best for them, as the elimination of the plant material makes the smoke smooth, and cuts down on how much they need to smoke. So while none of these issues will be settled at the preliminary inquiry on May 19 and 20, the stage will be set for a battle between whole plant cannabis medicines versus synthetic drugs. This is a battle we firmly believe we can win in court. To maximize the beneficial impacts this trial will have upon the Canadian medical system we need your help. Write letters, make signs, help with the barbeque, come witness the trial, or get out in the street with us. Perhaps you can talk someone you know into doing it with us. We cannot afford to wait for politicians to make responsible policy decisions regarding the medical uses of cannabis. The bakery trial will give our club a chance to use the courts to help form public policy, and establish our services as a necessary part of the health care system.