06/23/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 06/22/2016 05:59 EDT

Banning medical-marijuana edibles bad for patients: B.C. civil rights group

VANCOUVER - A British Columbia civil rights group is asking the City of Vancouver to reconsider its plan to ban dispensaries from selling edible forms of medical marijuana.

The request comes as the city council is set to vote on new zoning regulations for medical marijuana shops.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association said it recognized the logistical challenges to regulation but that an outright ban on items such as cookies and brownies would just transfer the problem to patients.

"This is not comparable to other kinds of medication," said Micheal Vonn, the organization's policy director.

"It's one thing to say we as government aren't really sure what kind of formulations are the safest. It is incredibly problematic to say to a patient: 'Here, go mix this up in your kitchen, like some kind of alchemist.'"

Vancouver is poised to pass precedent-setting policies that would require dispensaries to pay a $30,000 licensing fee and stay a minimum distance from schools and other pot shops.

The proposed regulations would allow for the sale of products such as dried marijuana and pot oil, which the city says patients could use to make their own edibles.

On Monday night, Vancouver councillors wrapped up four days of public hearings on amendments to licensing, zoning and development bylaws. More than 180 people were registered to speak.

Mayor Gregor Robertson closed the hearings by thanking residents for their input and saying councillors would debate and decide on the issue Wednesday.

The sale of over-the-counter marijuana in any form remains illegal, but the city said a proliferation of dispensaries over the last three years, from fewer than 20 to 94, led to the need for regulation.

Selling marijuana over the counter, whether it's dried or baked in a brownie, remains illegal, but the city has seen dispensaries grow over the last three years from fewer than 20 to 94.

City manager Penny Ballem said earlier this month that staff wanted to ban the sale of items such as baked goods and candies because of the risk that they would appeal to children.

A news release from the city referenced evidence from U.S.-based research that the availability of these products has led to increased cases of kids being poisoned.

But stringent packaging and labelling requirements, such as those introduced in Colorado, stand to mitigate that risk, Vonn said.

Last week's unanimous decision from the Supreme Court of Canada gave medical marijuana users the right to both possess and consume cannabis derivatives, including edibles and extracts.

"The case confirmed that Health Canada cannot force you to smoke your medication," Vonn said.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose said she was outraged after hearing about the decision, adding that marijuana has never faced a regulatory approval process through Health Canada.

Federal regulations had previously stipulated that authorized users of physician-prescribed cannabis could only consume dried marijuana.

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