Pubdate: Mon, 09 Jul 2007
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press


Marc-Boris St. Maurice has been arrested so many times for marijuana
possession that he serves as a one-man clinical study in the fate
reserved for those caught with small amounts of pot.

The study's theme would be inconsistency.

The Montreal pot activist has been arrested about seven times and on a
handful of other occasions he's been left alone by police without so
much as a slap on the wrist. His mishmash of experiences with
authority offers a glimpse into a law whose application appears at
best erratic, and at worst improvised and arbitrary.

The 38-year-old has been handcuffed, shoved into police cars, shared a
paddy wagon with an accused wife-beater and car thief, and had
officers sniggering at him during one of the strip-searches he's been
subjected to.

At other times, his breach of the law was met with yawning

A few weeks ago he tossed away a joint as he bumped into two officers
on foot patrol down trendy St. Laurent Boulevard. St. Maurice was
asked for ID by the constables. After they learned that he'd founded
the federal Marijuana party, the three proceeded to have a spirited
chat about politics and federal cannabis laws before the officers
walked away and left him alone.

"It's totally random. It's like playing the slot machines," St.
Maurice said of police enforcement.

A Montreal cop who asked not to be identified said some of his
colleagues can spend an entire career on the force without ever
arresting any of the people they catch smoking a joint.

"To me, charging someone for pot possession is a waste of resources --
for police and the justice system. But some cops go by the book and
apply the law every time."

That split among law-enforcement officers over what to do with
marijuana cases is illustrated by the example of Jon, a Victoria
furniture-store manager who asked that his last name be withheld.

He left the store one night in 2003 still dressed in his work dress
shoes, shirt and slacks, taking a walk through one of the grittier
parts of town to buy some weed for a party.

He didn't know he was being watched as he purchased $10 worth of
marijuana -- enough for a couple of joints.

He turned around and made his way toward a friend's apartment. A
police van cut him off, one officer jumped in front of him and another
pushed him into a wall.

Acquaintances gawked and worried about what Jon might have

He was handcuffed and brought into the van, which is where the
arresting officers had an open disagreement about what to do with him.

Jon recalls the younger cop saying to the older cop, "Should we just
let him go?"

The older officer replied, "No, we're taking him to the

Jon decided to fight his case, instead of agreeing to pay a small fine
and doing community service. That triggered a six-month legal battle
that only ended when the officer who witnessed the transaction died
and the charges were dropped. One police chief said officers rarely go
looking for pot-smokers. But they will make an arrest if they stumble
into them.

It can be another crime or something as trivial as a burned-out brake
light that alerts police to the sight or the unmistakably pungent
smell of cannabis, said Peterborough police chief Terry McLaren.

"Probably seven out of 10 (possession busts) have been arrested on
another charge," said McLaren, also head of the Ontario Association of
Chiefs of Police. "Or (they) were brought to the attention of police
for another reason and a subsequent investigation reveals the
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