Pubdate: Sun, 24 Dec 2017
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Sam Pazzano
Page: 10


Marijuana laws smouldering discontent: Critics

The marijuana prohibition era may be closing as early as Canada Day
2018, but pot users may still be burned by old drug laws, warn two
veteran criminal defence lawyers.

The current effort at legalization is "so half-hearted" and simply
doesn't deal with the fallout of decades of weed Prohibition, they
say. Simple pot possessors - and pot growers - are still being
prosecuted and given heavy sentences.

The Canadian government has not made any provision to pardon the
thousands of people with simple possession convictions. Their criminal
records prevent them from entering the U.S., say critics here.

"It's inexcusable they've waited so long to legalize and it's just as
inexcusable that they haven't gotten round to blanket pardons," says
veteran criminal defence lawyer Peter Zaduk.

"The paradox is that a Canadian with a 30-year-old conviction for
simple possession will be excluded from travelling to California where
the state has not only legalized it, but given blanket pardons for the
similar crime," says Zaduk.

Prominent defence lawyer John Struthers said current cops and Crowns
are riding hard on pot possessors and growers while the Liberal
government has former police chiefs working on pot's legalization and

Struthers takes issue with the view that liberal marijuana laws will
be more expensive for policing. "It's nonsense that police need
billions more to police legalization than before the expensive failed
War On Drugs," said Struthers.

Last month, Ontario's highest court tossed out a lenient sentence
against a pot grower - 90 days on weekends - for David Bentley who
cultivated 3,600 plants because the judge, Justice Elliott Allen
thought it made no sense to hammer someone for this offence when the
Liberal government had committed to legalizing pot.

Allen stated "that it was morally and rationally untenable for the
federal government is seeking to legalize... while at the same time
continuing to enforce the existing (marijuana) laws."

The Court of Appeal ruled Justice Allen was "wrongly focused on his
personal point of view" and he couldn't just ignore the rule of law
and sentencing principles simply because "the prospect of legal reform
was on the horizon."

The court substituted an 18-month custodial sentence - which was still
much shorter than the four-to-six years the prosecution originally
sought - but let Bentley off the hook because he'd already served his
weekend sentence.

"This decision supports the continued practice of prosecuting cannabis
offences until such time as the new law is actually amended," says Tom
Andreopoulos, Deputy Chief Federal Prosecutor, of Toronto.

"Despite the new law, unlicensed production of marijuana will still be
an offence, punishable by a maximum penalty of 14 years jail under the
proposed new legislation."

Struthers said prohibition "was a total abject failure and yet, we are
falling into a nonsensical reefer madness trap because they have to
appeal to War on Drugs-thinkers."

"(North America) wasted trillions on prohibition (trying to deter
usage) and it was a total failure on every level - from vicitimizing
and criminalizing users - giving them, especially visible minorities'
records so they can't travel for the rest of their lives," said
Struthers. Dec 2017
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