Pubdate: Wed, 29 Nov 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Giuseppe Valiante
Page: B6


MONTREAL - McGill University law professor Daniel Weinstock says he
heartily recommends his students take up criminal law in order to take
advantage of the country's new, strict cannabis laws.

"There is going to be a steady stream of customers," Weinstock said,
referring to the influx of people he estimates will be moving through
the justice system.

The professor's comments were partly made in jest but serve to
illustrate a larger point: upcoming marijuana laws - in response to
domestic and U.S. politics - will be a boon for lawyers.

Zero-tolerance policies will increase the incentive to contest
charges, further clogging the justice system, lawyers say. Moreover,
citizens are likely to see increased zeal from politicians and police
in order to avoid being perceived as soft on drugs.

Simple possession of marijuana will no longer be criminal, ostensibly
freeing up space in the justice system, but lawyers say the current
rules around cannabis aren't strongly enforced.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to legalize marijuana by the
summer and has left it to the provinces to create their own legal
frameworks governing how cannabis is controlled and sold on their

Quebec's cannabis bill, for instance, is particularly restrictive. It
prohibits citizens from growing their own plants, despite the federal
bill granting the right to grow up to four.

Quebecers, like Ontarians, won't be permitted to purchase cannabis
from anyone other than their governments.

And people caught driving under the influence of marijuana in Quebec
will also face a so-called "zero-tolerance principle."

Under the bill as it is currently written, drivers will automatically
lose their licence for at least 90 days if any amount of cannabis is
detected in their saliva - regardless of whether the driver is
actually impaired.

"You will have people found positive (for cannabis) who will have
smoked a joint two days prior ... the effect on the court system would
be unimaginable," Weinstock said.

Trudeau has said the goal of his campaign promise to legalize
marijuana is to make it more difficult for children to have access to
the drug. As a result, there will still be a market for underage
marijuana smokers.

Weinstock said if police decide to get tough on marijuana sold to
minors then "that's a whole area (of law) that's going to explode."

Lawyer Avi Levy, who runs Ticket 911, a company dedicated to
representing people charged with driving violations, said he expects
an increase in the number of people who will be charged with
marijuana-related crimes.

"I think we're going to see a lot more impaired driving charges -
especially if there is a zero-tolerance policy," he said.

Levy said traces of cannabis can stay in the body for days after being
smoked, making it difficult with current technology to test whether a
driver is actually impaired.

Criminal lawyer Andrew Barbacki said, "certainly, I think, with the
difficulties of testing, it's going to be a nightmare until they get a
proper test. And (all the charges) are going to be contested."

"I would foresee for the first couple of years it's going to be a
nightmare, really."

Quebec and others provinces are currently dealing with a recent
Supreme Court decision restricting the length of time for criminal
cases to get to trial. Without additional resources, Quebec's justice
system is likely to see increased pressure if more marijuana-related
cases go to court.
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