"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Sunday, May 18, 2003

In the immortal words of Arte Johnson "Verrry Interestink"

Marijuana possession law 'erased'

Ellen van Wageningen
CanWest News Service
WINDSOR -- Possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana is no longer against the law in Ontario, a Windsor judge says in a ruling released yesterday that compounds the chaos over Canada's pot laws.

Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin's decision has "effectively erased the criminal prohibition on marijuana possession from the law books in Ontario," said Brian McAllister, the Windsor lawyer who challenged the law on behalf of a 17-year-old client.

Judge Rogin's decision is almost certainly to be followed by judges of Ontario's lower court, where nearly all marijuana possession cases are decided.

"This decision is also likely to have significant repercussions on the viability of marijuana prosecutions across the country," Mr. McAllister said.

Hundreds of marijuana possession cases in Ontario have been put on hold pending Judge Rogin's ruling and the outcome of other cases currently
before the Supreme Court of Canada.

That shouldn't change until the Ontario Court of Appeal reviews Judge Rogin's decision, said Jim Leising, the Justice Department official responsible for drug prosecutions in Ontario.

"We certainly continue to maintain that possession of marijuana is prohibited by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and we'll be moving quite quickly to appeal this judgment," he said.

Mr. McAllister said police in Ontario should note Judge Rogin's judgment and stop laying charges for marijuana possession.

"Otherwise, the police will be arresting people for an activity which is no longer outlawed," he said.

Judge Rogin upheld Ontario Court Justice Douglas Phillip's decision to quash a charge against a Kingsville youth for possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana because the law is no longer valid.

The government needed to pass a new law prohibiting marijuana possession after the current one was struck down by the Ontario Court of Appeal two years ago, Judge Rogin agreed.

The appeal court ruled in favour of severe epileptic Terry Parker, of Toronto, saying the law violated the constitutional rights of sick people who used marijuana for medical reasons. It gave the government until July 31, 2001, to remedy the situation or the law would be invalid.

The government responded by passing the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, which were found to be unconstitutional by a Toronto judge in another case involving Mr. Parker. That judge said the problem is there is no legal supply of marijuana for sick people.

Meanwhile, the federal government is attempting to get new legislation dealing with marijuana before Parliament by the end of the month.

It is proposing to make possessing 15 grams or less of marijuana a non-criminal offence for which people could be fined as little as $100. The relaxing of the pot possession laws would be accompanied by stiffer penalties for drug traffickers and marijuana growers, as well as drug use prevention, education and treatment strategies.

© Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen

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