Tousaw
Credit: Jim Holland Photography

To mark the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, we check in with some of the key players in the B.C. cannabis world. From pot growers to government officials to medical professionals, meet the people helping move the industry forward and keep British Columbians safe. Todays subject is Kirk Tousaw, barrister with Tousaw Law Corp.

“We’re behind the curve, which is a little bit shocking, given that the cannabis industry in British Columbia has been ahead of the curve for an awfully long time,” says Cowichan Valley–based Kirk Tousaw, who worked on several landmark cases upholding patients’ rights to medical marijuana. B.C. opened one legal store on October 17, but hundreds of illicit shops will keep selling recreational pot, barring an enforcement drive, he notes. “We particularly need to speed up people who want to transition into the legal industry.”

As recreational legalization unfolds, Tousaw sees these sticking points ahead.

POSSESSION

The federal Cannabis Act allows people to possess 30 grams of marijuana in public, but they can be fined for possessing 31 grams and jailed for having 60. That strikes Tousaw as an arbitrary law that can be challenged for violating Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that you can go to the store and buy an unlimited quantity of alcohol, but you’re a criminal if you possess just over a couple of ounces of cannabis.”

PERSONAL USE

The first Canadian charged for growing more than the four cannabis plants allowed for personal use will also have a strong arbitrariness challenge, Tousaw says. “At a certain point, if you’re growing for your own personal consumption, the number of plants is completely irrelevant.”

IMPAIRED DRIVING

Tousaw says he’ll probably join the inevitable court challenge to limits on cannabis metabolites in one’s body while driving. “If you use cannabis for chronic pain, the idea is to keep a lot of cannabinoids in your system so you’re getting the medical benefit,” explains the attorney, who has stopped representing private clients but consults for Ontario based marijuana player Canopy Growth Corp. “It doesn’t mean you’re impaired to drive a vehicle.”

ADVERTISING

The onerous restrictions on cannabis advertising will face a legal challenge as infringements on commercial free speech, Tousaw says. “If you compare the way alcohol marketing occurs in this country–a much more dangerous substance than cannabis–where’s the justification for treating cannabis differently?”

Check out the November issue of BCBusiness for more profiles of B.C.s pot players