Marijuana smokers may enjoy soaring moods and hearty appetites but they also can suffer short-term memory loss and reduced intellect, an expert testified Friday.
Dr. Harold Kalant was providing his expert testimony on both the adverse effects and benefits of pot at a constitutional challenge by a Toronto church — the “Church of the Universe.”
Lawyers for the church are seeking an exemption to the country’s marijuana laws from Madam Justice Thea Herman, saying it infringes on their religious rights.
The ministers’ lawyers are asking Herman to strike down the laws prohibiting the possession, cultivation and distribution of cannabis-related substances because it violates the church’s right to practise its religion.
Ingesting cannabis, a sedative, “relaxes, calms and makes a person feel in a better mood,” testified Kalant, who was chairman of the World Health Organization’s working group on cannabis and health from 1994 to 1998.
Pot’s active ingredient relieves pain and nausea and stimulates appetite for chemotherapy patients and can help asthma patients — not through smoking, but ingesting it in other forms — court heard. It can also induce sleep.
But pot also can make people less alert, less attentive, slower to react and thus impair one’s ability to drive, said Kalant, 86, who received his medical degree in 1945.
It can affect short-term memory, stunting the ability to grasp new information or solve logical problems, Kalant said.
Church of the Universe lawyers Paul Lewin and George Filipovic said church-goers view cannabis as a sacred substance whose consumption brings them closer to God.
Church-goers attending the court hearing often smoke their “sacred substance” on the front lawn of Ontario’s highest court, the Ontario Court of Appeal, situated next door to this Superior Court building.
It’s believed to be the first time a Canadian court has been asked to define what is a religion and whether its illegal practices are protected by the Charter of Rights.