Zach Walsh

Zach Walsh is an assistant professor of psychology at UBC Okanagan. He wrote a major study on medical cannabis.

Stephen Harper’s tough-on-crime government must write new legislation that opens a legal supply of marijuana-medicated cookies, oils and teas to patients, say Okanagan supporters of the cannabis industry.

Because Thursday’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling allows Canadians to possess and consume extracts and derivatives of marijuana, Ottawa must give licensed pot producers the right to provide those edibles, said Zach Walsh, an assistant professor of psychology at UBC Okanagan who wrote a major study on medical cannabis.

“If (the ruling) recognizes this is a medical need or right for Canadians, then they have to have a safe way to get it. Otherwise it’s a meaningless right,” he said Friday.

“We’ve had a number of decades now of senseless prohibitions and needless hardships for Canadians who tend to benefit from the medicine. I’m glad to see some common sense.”

Until Thursday, federal legislation required that medical weed could only be produced, sold, possessed and consumed in its dried form by smoking or using a vaporizer. Many patients don’t want to inhale smoke, so the option of having edibles or concentrates allows for better treatment, Walsh said.

“It’s not going to mean people are consuming any more. . . . It’s the same substance administered in a potentially healthier way.”

The high court’s decision is a watershed moment for medical-marijuana dispensaries, which sell cannabis to authorized patients under a grey area of Canadian law.

Customers have been buying oils and a non-psychoactive extract called CBD caps at Black Crow THC Dispensary in Vernon for more than a year. The ruling makes legal another option for their medicine, said owner Bob Jaenicke.

“We have a lot of people who come in here — senior citizens — and they’re treating their cancer with oil. . . . Now they’re not going to be criminals.”

Health Minister Rona Ambrose said she’s “outraged” by Thursday’s decision. Despite recent court rulings in favour of marijuana use, her government asserts cannabis has never been proven safe or effective as a medicine.

“Marijuana has never gone through the regulatory approval process at Health Canada, which requires rigorous safety reviews and clinical trials with scientific evidence,” she said Thursday in Ottawa.

Ambrose said rulings that permit medical-marijuana use give Canadians the impression the drug is effective, when it’s not. The latest decision normalizes a drug when there’s no clinical evidence that it is a medicine.

Ingesting cannabis is a more effective way to medicate, and many patients prefer to put it on a cracker than smoke it, said Jaenicke. People take it for pain relief or to relieve their nausea after taking chemo medication. Others, like three-year-old Kyla Williams, who suffered hundreds of seizures a day in Summerland, have improved their quality of life by ingesting CBD caps.

Customers at Black Crow, which also operates a store in West Kelowna, are thrilled, Jaenicke said.

“They’re saying it’s about time. . . . Now we can sell it to our customers without fear of prosecution.”

Still, the legal waters are muddy for licensed pot producers. It’s unclear whether they can produce edible forms of medical weed or give their patients recipes. It’s also uncertain whether authorized users can convert dried bud into edibles and extracts themselves.

Walsh believes they can.

“Whether you’re pro or against medical cannabis, there’s no reason why you can’t bake it into an oil and eat it.”