Pubdate: Wed, 17 Sep 2003
Source: Surrey Now (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc., A Canwest Company
Author: Tom Zytaruk
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Surrey's marijuana fans might want to delay smoking a victory joint to
celebrate a provincial court judge's ruling that simple possession of marijuana
is no longer prohibited here in B.C.

Despite the cheers of pot activists, B.C. residents can still get busted for
simple possession. Judge Patrick Chen's ruling is not binding on any other case
or court.

"The law is still there, it's still binding," said Lyse Cantin, director of
communications for the Federal Department of Justice's B.C. region. "That
(Chen's) decision is not binding on other courts. Because it's not binding,
simple possession continues to be an offence. It's a very complicated issue,
without a doubt."

Chen, in Regina v. Kurtis Lee Masse, found earlier this month that the law
prohibiting the possession of pot died at the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2001
and, therefore, "there is no offence known to law at this time for simple
possession of marijuana."

The Ontario case involved a man who needed marijuana to control life
threatening grand mal seizures. He was charged with possession, but the court
decided it would be infringing on his rights to liberty and security of person
to force him to chose between his health and imprisonment.

Pot activists are claiming victory, but the RCMP sees things differently.

Surrey RCMP Sgt. Denis Rivais noted that authorities can proceed under the
Criminal Code by either summary offence or by indictment.

If a person is caught possessing fewer than 30 grams of pot, he said, it's
considered a summary conviction offence and therefore the offender can't be
fingerprinted or hit with a criminal record.

Chen's ruling won't prevent the RCMP from busting grow operations, he added.

"It shouldn't affect anything because we're looking at a different section
within the Act. The people that have these grow ops are not being charged with
possession, they're being charged with cultivation. They're still fair game,
for sure."

All the same, Chen's ruling has some people cheering.

Don Briere, a former Marijuana Party MLA candidate who is on parole until 2005
for drugs and weapons offences, praised the judge in this case.

"I think he's a very intelligent, smart guy. He knows it's a good thing for the
people," said Briere, 52. "It's a big step in stopping the war on the people,
y'know what I mean?

"We're not going to let it go. We're going to keep fighting for it. We're going
to make sure it stays in place. It's simple possession. But what about
production, and on and on and on? So we've got to continue fighting until it's
totally legalized, just like alcohol or any other product."

Kirk Tousaw, policy director of B.C.'s Civil Liberties Association, heralded
the ruling as "a great victory for advocates of freedom and personal

Chuck Cadman, MP for Surrey North, represents a riding where neighbourhoods
such as Fraser Heights are plagued with pot growing operations.

"I guess we'll have to see if the Crown is going to appeal that," he said of
Chen's ruling.

"I would suspect that there will be some constituents, given the demographic of
the riding, that will probably be happy with the decision but I suspect there
will be a lot that will be extremely unhappy with it," he said.
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