Mayor’s Letter to Minister Becomes Evidence in Pot Trial

In March 2006, former Victoria mayor Alan Lowe wrote to Tony Clement, then federal health minister, asking him to immediately review Canada’s medical marijuana regulations “to determine where improvements can be made to ensure a better quality of life for those Canadians in need of medical assistance.”

The letter, written on behalf of Victoria city council, was entered as evidence Tuesday at the trial of Owen Smith, head baker for the Cannabis Buyers’ Club of Canada (CBCC).

Smith, 29, has been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking THC, one of the active ingredients in marijuana, and unlawful possession of marijuana on Dec. 3, 2009.

Smith has essentially admitted he used a View Street apartment as a commercial bakery, making pot cookies and other cannabis-based products for sale through the club. However, he is raising a constitutional challenge against Health Canada’s marijuana access regulations and the validity of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

In the March 20, 2006, letter, Lowe told Clement the issue of public access had been raised at city council by a number of citizens who rely on marijuana to manage pain.

Although the previous federal government had endorsed the medicinal properties of cannabis, “adequate production and distribution channels do not appear to be in place,” wrote Lowe. “In the absence of this infrastructure, many Canadians will continue to suffer the debilitating effects of their illnesses without the benefit of effective pain management techniques.”

Four years earlier, on April 18, 2002, the city passed a resolution declaring that the federal laws regarding cannabis need to be changed, especially for people with incurable medical conditions. The city also proclaimed Nov. 15 International Medical Marijuana Day and encouraged everyone to act with tolerance, compassion and understanding toward people who need cannabis to relieve their pain.

The documents were entered by defence lawyer Kirk Tousaw during the testimony of Ted Smith, proprietor of the CBCC and no relation to the accused.

Ted Smith, 42, testified that when he moved to Victoria in September 1995, he met a woman called Leslie at the Sacred Herb hemp shop. Leslie volunteered in the AIDS community in James Bay, making pot cookies, brownies and medical salves.

“When they ate the cookies, they’d put the weight back on . . . it made them want to live again.”

Ted Smith decided he wanted to help people who were dying from cancer or suffering chronic pain. On April 1, 2001, he opened the club at 826 Johnson St. Between 2001 and 2003, the club was raided a number of times, he testified.

Ted Smith was convicted of trafficking in resin, but the conviction was dropped on appeal. He was granted a stay of proceeding on another trafficking offence.

Tousaw entered a number of letters between Ted Smith and Health Canada into evidence. In the documents, Smith questions why Health Canada’s marijuana access regulations only allow people authorized to use marijuana to possess it in dried form.

“My client was trying to get some understanding why the regulatory scheme would allow people to smoke dried marijuana versus what he perceived to be less harmful ways of getting cannabis into the body by eating or applying it topically,” said Tousaw.

In 2006, a letter from a Health Canada official to Ted Smith says as long as the plant is dried first, any preparations made after that are acceptable. The statement was retracted by another official in 2008.

– Article originally from Times Colonist.