Trust a key ingredient of cannabis cookies, court told
Jan 25 2012
A cannabis expert agreed Tuesday that people eating medical marijuana cookies would have to trust their baker.
David Pate, who holds a masters degree in biology and a PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry, agreed with Health Canada's information for health-care professionals, which states that precise dosages of cannabis have not been established.
"The complex pharmacology of cannabinoids, interindividual differences in cannabinoid bioavailability, prior exposure to and experience with cannabis, the variable potency of the plant material, and different dosing regimens used in different research studies all contribute to the difficulty in reporting precise doses or establishing uniform dosing schedules," Crown prosecutor Peter Eccles read into the court record.
"Natural products all have that foible," said Pate, who was testifying at the trial of Owen Edward Smith, the head baker for the Cannabis Buyers' Club of Canada.
Smith 29, was charged on Dec. 3, 2009, with possession for the purpose of trafficking THC and unlawful possession of marijuana 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 that the suite was being used as a bakery. Officers recovered substantial quantities of cannabis-infused olive and grapeseed 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.
Health Canada has rough dosing guidelines for smoked or vaporized marijuana, said Eccles. But the health-care guidelines indicate that absorbing marijuana in baked goods, such as cookies or brownies, or drinking it in tea is slow and erratic.
"I would agree with the slow and erratic," said Pate. "I will also contend that dosing is more reliable orally than by smoking it."
Pate said he would be more comfortable taking a known oral dose than a smoked dose.
"But this is cannabis. There are no catastrophic consequences," he said.
Eccles also pointed to information in the Health Canada literature that cautions patients with no prior marijuana experience to begin at a very low dose and to stop therapy if unacceptable side effects occur. He suggested the manufacturer of edible products may not know exactly what's in them.
"For example, people could be eating a cookie with five to seven different strains of marijuana in it. You'd have to trust the baker," said Eccles.
"You'd have to trust the baker ... And you're along for the ride," Pate said.