Pubdate: Sat, 04 Jan 2003
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2003 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Marlene Habib, The Canadian Press


Feds Move 'As Quickly As Possible' To Quell Uncertainty Over Drug Laws

TORONTO -- Ottawa moved quickly yesterday to quell uncertainty over 
Canada's drug laws by appealing an Ontario Court ruling the day before that 
threw out a marijuana charge on a technicality.

"We were aware of the uncertainty the decision created so we thought we'd 
move as quickly as possible," said federal Justice Department spokesman Jim 

Leising said the appeal was "expedited" after Justice Douglas Phillips 
sided Thursday with lawyer Brian McAllister and his client, a Windsor, 
Ont., teen who was charged last April with possession of marijuana.

Phillips tossed the charge after McAllister argued that Ottawa has not yet 
fixed a loophole that effectively invalidates Canada's drug laws when it 
comes to cases involving 30 grams of marijuana or less.

That loophole emerged two years ago when Terry Parker, an epileptic who 
uses marijuana to ease his symptoms, won the right to possess pot in a 
landmark decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Ottawa's response to the Parker ruling was to introduce the Medical 
Marijuana Access Regulations, which are supposed to allow qualified 
applicants to use marijuana for medical reasons. But McAllister 
successfully argued that rather than using regulations to close the 
loophole and allow marijuana's medicinal use, the government ought to have 
instead drafted a whole new statute.

The regulations in question are also the subject of a constitutional 
challenge in Toronto by a group of medical marijuana users who say their 
right to choose their own form of treatment is being violated.

Notwithstanding Thursday's ruling, the act is still the law of the land in 
Canada and police will proceed as usual with laying charges, Leising said.

But he conceded the Ontario judgment has created "potential for it to be 
followed" by enforcement officials and the courts.

Leising said McAllister was served yesterday with the government's 
intention to appeal, and said the case will likely be heard in Superior 
Court in Windsor within the next 30 days.

Crown prosecutors handling similar cases involving possession of small 
amounts of marijuana are being asked to consent to delayed hearings until 
after the appeal is heard, he added.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth