Pubdate: Fri, 10 Jan 2003
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Sam Pazzano, Courts Bureau
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Judge Gives Ottawa 6 Months To Make Sure Patients Can Get Access To Grass

Marijuana could be legal for everyone in Canada within six months unless 
Ottawa fixes its medicinal marijuana regulations or provides a legal source 
and supply to sick people, said one of the lawyers involved in the landmark 
Superior Court decision yesterday.

Justice Sydney Lederman declared the current Marijuana Medicinal Access 
Regulations (MMAR) unconstitutional, but gave the government an ultimatum: 
Fix the regulations or supply the pot itself by July 9.

"The government must be granted time to fix the MMAR or otherwise provide 
for a legal source and supply of the drug the MMAR authorize seriously ill 
individuals to possess and produce, consistent with their (Charter) 
security rights," Lederman wrote in a judgment.

"But ultimately it is up to the government -- and not the courts -- to 
decide how to create an appropriate legal source and supply of marijuana.

"Access is compromised because there is simply no legal way for individuals 
with production licences to obtain the marijuana seeds required to grow it. 
Even if it were somehow acceptable for individuals to rely on black market 
supplies to exercise their constitutional rights, the unreliability of this 
source cannot be ignored," Lederman wrote.

Lawyer Joseph Neuberger, who represented some of the applicants to the 
Charter challenge, said that "when six months retires, if the government 
repairs the regulations and permits safe access and supply to ill people, 
then the law is intact.

On The Hook

"If they don't (do either of those options), the possession law is out the 

He also said that if Ottawa "doesn't fix the regulations, it is on the hook 
to supply marijuana permanently.

"That's an onerous task and I sincerely doubt it'll do that."

Both Neuberger and lawyer Paul Burstein, who represented another applicant, 
agreed that it's unlikely that authorized marijuana users would be 
prosecuted in the next six months since the judge has suspended the 
quashing of the legislation for that time period.

"It's open to police to do it but given Lederman's findings I can't imagine 
any judge or jury convicting a sick person who needs marijuana of this 
offence," Burstein said. "But there is still a legal limbo of sorts for 
MMAR users. There is clear statement from a Superior Court judge that there 
is no legitimate way to get access to marijuana."

Still In Breach

Neuberger also said he doubts that ill people who need pot for medicinal 
purposes but lack authorization will be prosecuted, "although they are 
still in breach of the law as it is."

Justice department spokesman Dorrette Polland said their lawyers are 
"carefully reviewing the reasons in the decision and will advise the 
minister, Martin Cauchon, accordingly on the next step to take."

A Health Canada spokesman said his agency will be consulting with officials 
at the justice department once they have read the decision.

Burstein said Lederman's ruling is another in a "series of landmark rulings 
... this may be the straw that breaks the camel's back."

Lederman was scathing in his criticism of the MMAR.

"Laws which put seriously ill, vulnerable people in a position where they 
have to deal with the criminal underworld to obtain medicine they have been 
authorized to take, violate the constitutional right to security of the 
person," Lederman wrote in his judgement.

"The MMAR expose the applicants, who all have serious medical conditions, 
to further risk to personal safety. Not only do they face risks associated 
with consorting with criminals, and the possibility of prosecution ... they 
have to deal with the uncertain quality of the (street) product.

"I have grave reservations about a regime which is supposed to grant legal 
access to marijuana while controlling its illicit use, but instead grants 
legal access by relying on drug dealers to supply and distribute the 
required drug."
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