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Nothing unique about dried pot, court told

Jan 24 2012

A cannabis expert has concluded that there is no scientific or medical basis to differentiate between whole dried marijuana plants and cannabis resin.

On Monday, David Pate, cofounder of the International Hemp Association, told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Johnston that the two primary therapeutic compounds of cannabis (THC and CBD) are found in the resin.

"The plant matter itself is not a desired therapeutic component," Pate wrote in an affidavit entered into evidence at the trial of Owen Edward Smith, the head baker for the Cannabis Buyers' Club of Canada.

"This is because plant matter can contain a variety of harmful or unwanted compounds which may include heavy metals, fertilizer residue, pesticides, moulds and insect remnants."

Smith 29, was charged on Dec. 3, 2009, with possession for the purpose of trafficking THC, one of the active ingredients in marijuana. He is also charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Smith was charged after the manager of an apartment building complained to police about a strong smell wafting through the building. Police obtained a search warrant and discovered the suite was being used as a bakery. Officers recovered substantial quantities of cannabis-infused olive and grape seed oil, as well as pot cookies, destined for sale through the club.

Smith has launched a constitutional challenge against Health Canada's medical-marijuana access regulations. His defence lawyer, Kirk Tousaw, is challenging the validity of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act regarding marijuana. Tousaw is arguing that the medical marijuana program is unduly restrictive and constitutionally flawed because those authorized to use medical marijuana can possess it only in dried form.

Cannabis plant matter may not be good for people with gastrointestinal problems, said Pate, who holds a masters degree in biology and a PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry.

There are a number of ways to ingest the active compounds in cannabis, he wrote in the affidavit. It may be smoked or vapourized. It can be eaten in food products - such as brownies or cookies - prepared with cannabis-infused oil or butter.

People can also use oil-based preparations with resin extract and apply it directly to the skin. Another way to ingest cannabis compounds is to spray an alcohol extract of the resin under the tongue.

People who suffer from gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome can benefit from ingesting cannabis-based medicines, said Pate. This provides the benefit of direct therapeutic action, which can be more effective and require fewer doses.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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