Provincial bans on public pot use may not cover homemade edibles in some cases

In this Sept. 26, 2014, file photo, smaller-dose pot-infused brownies are packaged at The Growing Kitchen in Boulder, Colo. (File image via AP)
In this Sept. 26, 2014, file photo, smaller-dose pot-infused brownies are packaged at The Growing Kitchen in Boulder, Colo. (File image via AP)

WINNIPEG — Canadians won’t be able to smoke or vape marijuana in most public places even after the federal government legalizes recreational use of the drug later this year.

But, depending on where they live, they may be able to eat to their heart’s content.

Manitoba is one province that has an edible cannabis loophole big enough to drive a truck filled with brownies through.

The Progressive Conservative government has just passed a law banning consumption of cannabis in virtually any public place — streets, parks, campsites and more — but the law is worded to only ban smoking or vaping. It does not cover homemade edibles.

The government appeared to be caught off-guard by the issue when contacted Monday by The Canadian Press. Two days later, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen’s office responded with a brief statement that said the minister was unavailable for an interview but the matter would be examined shortly.

“We expect Minister Goertzen and health ministers from across the country will seek clarity on the federal government’s plans for edibles when they meet in Winnipeg later this month,” the statement read.

The federal government has made it clear that sales of edible cannabis products such as cookies or brownies will not be legal immediately. But people will be allowed to bake and eat their own.

As soon as recreational use is legalized, people will be allowed to “alter cannabis at home in order to prepare varying types of cannabis products — e.g. edibles — for personal use,” a Health Canada online guide states.

The Ontario government appears to have covered all the bases. Its cannabis law forbids all forms of cannabis consumption in public places. The British Columbia government specifically prevents smoking and vaping in some areas such as workplaces, playgrounds and bus stops.

Like Manitoba, B.C. has specified three areas where any form of cannabis consumption is forbidden — schools, vehicles and boats.

The New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island governments said Wednesday they will ban all forms of cannabis consumption in public areas.

Karl Gowenlock, a criminal defence lawyer in Winnipeg, said Manitoba’s law means parks, streets and other areas are fair game for people who want to eat goods that contain marijuana.

He said even those provinces that ban edibles in public places may find the idea challenged in court, because unlike smoking, eating has little to no effect on others nearby.

“Whether someone consumes an edible in their apartment before walking out on to the street, or pops it in their mouth as they’re walking down the street, there’s no real difference from a public policy perspective that I can see,” Gowenlock said.

Opposition NDP health critic Andrew Swan said the government’s different treatment of edibles and smoking is confusing.

“It appears that this government has not done their homework and it appears that they may have left a gap that makes no sense.”

The statement from Goertzen’s office said rules for edibles may come at some point.

“Our government expects to respond with legislation and regulation as needed to continue to ensure the use of cannabis — in all its various forms — is used responsibly while protecting public safety.”

— with files from Kevin Bissett in Frederiction and Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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