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editorial

A Supreme Court ruling says Canadians can now ingest the benefits of medical marijuana plants like this one without drying and smoking them.Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press

There's this great natural pain remedy you can legally buy in Canada. It's called salicylic acid. One source is willow bark. You boil the bark into a tea and drink it, as the ancient Greeks did. If you want, you can also source salicylic acid from castoreum, an anal secretion of the North American Beaver, as was often done in the 18th century.

Alternately, if you like things a little more modern, you can ingest it in a modified pill form. You know it as Aspirin.

The point is, the government lets Canadians take salicylic acid in various forms because it recognizes that it is a valued medicinal ingredient. The government also reluctantly lets Canadians use marijuana because the courts have ruled that it is a legitimate treatment for some medical conditions.

But for arbitrary reasons, the Harper government decided the only way anyone could legally take legal medical marijuana was the old way – by drying and smoking it. Extracting the active ingredient and putting it in a lotion, a pill or some other edible form, like a cookie, was illegal and could result in a prison sentence.

That anomaly has now been rectified by the Supreme Court of Canada. It ruled last week that the Harper government's restrictions on medical marijuana violated the right "to life, liberty and security of the person."

Those are big words in defence of a pot cookie. But the court is right. The government's aversion to alternative forms of medical marijuana comes in spite of Health Canada findings that the oral ingestion of pot can "be appropriate or beneficial for certain conditions," as the court noted. As well, it's well known that smoking pot, like smoking tobacco, presents its own health risks.

Furthermore, Ottawa has never shown that limiting medical pot's intake to the bong has a justifiable legal goal, such as curbing the drug's diversion into the illegal market.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose said she was "outraged" by the decision because it "normalizes a drug where there is no clear clinical evidence that it is, quote-unquote, a medicine."

But the law already says that pot is a legal medicine. It makes no sense to have a rule that legalizes a drug – while threatening someone with jail unless they use it in its most archaic form.