Pubdate: Wed, 15 Sep 2004
Source: Esquimalt News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Esquimalt News
Author:  Don Descoteau
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Lack of government supply of medical marijuana at the time led a provincial 
court judge to shelve 2-1/2-year-old pot trafficking charges against a 
Victoria marijuana advocate.

But the stay of proceedings issued by Judge L.F. Chaperon in the trial of 
Cannabis Buyer's Club founder Leon "Ted" Smith and Colby Budda on Sept. 7 
doesn't change the laws on selling pot in general, says Victoria police 
Insp. Grant Smith.

"My fear here is others will use this ruling with the false belief that 
they will be able to open storefronts to sell marijuana in a similar 
fashion," Smith said Thursday. "I can say in all honesty if they do so they 
will be receiving attention from the police."

Smith, who commands the department's targeted policing division, said his 
officers aren't going to go out of their way to investigate activities of 
the Cannabis Buyer's Club or the Vancouver Island Compassion Society 
operated in the city by Phillipe Lucas.

"But if information comes to us that they are trafficking, then we would 
investigate it as we would with any other trafficker," he said. For Ted 
Smith, defending himself in court on pot-related charges is almost becoming 
old hat.

"This is the best thing that's happened in my life so far," a jubilant 
Smith said following last week's decision, which saw him avoid conviction 
on marijuana trafficking charges for a second time.

He is hoping for similar results in several other trials he faces on 
similar charges. Smith was scheduled to go to trial yesterday (Sept. 14) on 
charges laid following his arrest in November, 2000 for sharing joints at 
the University of Victoria.

Last week's stay of proceedings means prosecutors are allowed up to a year 
to find new evidence and re-try the case or else it gets dropped. The 
charges related to a Jan. 2, 2002 raid on the Cannabis Buyer's Club 
distribution centre at 826 Johnson St., then known as Ted's Books.

A disgruntled client who had been cut off from the pot supply by Smith came 
back and brought a police officer with him, stating the cop could find 
large amounts of marijuana on-site. When they arrived, Budda was cutting up 
pot on the front counter and Smith, also in the shop, was identified as the 
operator of the shop. Both men were arrested.

"We've had this cloud lifted and we've gone from the shadows into the 
light, so to speak," Smith said of the judge's ruling. "We can show people 
this court decision and I can prove that I'm not a criminal."

To his mind, Smith said, Justice Chaperon agreed with the club's mandate 
that "people with permanent physical disabilities and diseases had an 
inherent right to use cannabis as medicine."

Smith testified on his own behalf that he was always very up front with 
police about his activities and that his club was providing a service that 
Health Canada was not at the time. Chaperon agreed, saying that she found 
Smith's evidence "completely credible."

Referring to the absence of any government-supplied marijuana in Victoria 
in early 2002, Chaperon voiced concern for sick people faced with the 
challenge of securing pot to ease their pain and suffering.

"It is unsettling to contemplate persons with AIDS or who are undergoing 
cancer treatment being forced to go down to the illegal drug emporium which 
operates in the downtown core of Victoria to acquire their marijuana from 
persons who are interested only in selling them drugs of unknown quality 
for a profit," she wrote. "But on Jan. 3, 2002, but for compassion clubs 
such as Mr. Smith's, that was their only alternative."

Smith, who continues to have bail restrictions preventing him to have any 
involvement in the club's operations, acknowledged that the club could 
still get raided given the fact Health Canada is now supplying marijuana, 
albeit of questionable quality.

The Cannabis Buyer's Club of Canada has about 1,300 active members, Smith 
said, estimating that he has sold pot for medical reasons to more than 
1,500 people. He added that since the club has been in operation, about 200 
people have been cut off for various reasons, among them reselling their 

Smith said he intends to continue the fight to legalize marijuana as well 
as advocate for the provision of medical marijuana for local patients.

He said he wants to get an audience with Mayor Alan Lowe, who co-chairs the 
Victoria police board, to clarify the city's position on the club.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager