Pubdate: Tue, 03 Feb 2009
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Keith Fraser
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


He's Guilty, Judge Rules, But Law Is Unconstitutional

A B.C. judge has struck down as unconstitutional provisions of a
federal law that restrict the supply of marijuana to patients
authorized to use the drug.

B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Marvyn Koenigsberg also found the man
at the centre of the ruling, a worker for a marijuana compassion club
on Vancouver Island, guilty of producing and possessing for the
purpose of trafficking the drug, but gave him an absolute discharge.

In May 2004, the RCMP raided a "research" facility being run by the
Vancouver Island Compassion Society, seized a quantity of marijuana
and charged Mathew Beren, 35, an employee at the facility.

Lawyers for Beren argued that access and supply of the drug through
the federal medicinal-marijuana program violated patients' rights.

The judge found that access restrictions requiring patients to get a
doctor's approval were constitutional, but found that restrictions on
the supply to be arbitrary.

Specifically, the judge struck down a section of the law which says
that, if you're a designated grower, growing the drug for an
authorized person, you can only grow for that single person. Under the
law you would not be permitted to grow pot for anybody else, including

The judge also struck down a provision that limited the number of
licencees at any specific site to three. In other words, the law
disallowed growers' collectives, where a group of patients get
together and pool their resources.

The judge has given Ottawa a year to make changes before the law will
be officially struck down.

Beren was found guilty because he was selling the drug not only to
medicinal-marijuana users but also to unlicenced people. But the
judge, noting Beren's "good character" and lack of a criminal record,
found the accused to be an ideal candidate for a discharge.

"If ever there was a case in which an absolute discharge was
appropriate, it was this one," she concluded.

The courtroom was full of medicinal-marijuana advocates, many
appearing relieved at the decision.

Outside court, Beren said he was pleased with the ruling and hopes it
means that people who need the drug will now find it easier to get
access "without the dangers of the street or the dangers of someone
growing cannabis and adding stuff that doesn't need to be there."
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