NEWSHAWK:   Fri, 05 Sep 1997

SOURCE: London Free Press

Christopher Clay's lawyer said the challenge to the constitutionality of
marijuana laws his client initiated won't end and an appeal is planned.

By Don Murray, Free Press Justice Reporter

Christopher Clay's failed attempt to defeat Canada's marijuana laws may
have cost him a lot of money, but it won't put him behind bars. 

The 26yearold former owner of a store called Hemp Nation is not someone
who belongs in jail, Justice John McCart of Ontario Court, general
division, said on Friday.

He is not a member of the "blackmarket" drug world and only "did what he
did solely to test the marijuana law," McCart said.

The judge, who convicted Clay on three drug charges after a threeweek
trial which drew national attention, said he accepted the noncustodial
sentence jointly proposed by the Crown and defence.

FINED: He fined Clay $750 for trafficking in marijuana, possession for
the purpose of trafficking, simple possession and a fourth charge of
possession for the purpose of trafficking. Clay pleaded guilty to that
charge, which postdated the others on Friday.

In addition, Clay will forfeit the inventory seized from his store by
police during a raid in 1995, inventory his lawyer and Osgoode law
professor Alan Young said is worth $80,000.

McCart also placed Clay on probation for the maximum three years,
ordering it be transferred to Vancouver where Clay said he intends to move

Under the terms of probation, Clay must not have any contact with illegal
drugs or take part in the sale, advertisement, production or distribution
of drug paraphernalia.

Young said the challenge to the constitutionality of the marijuana laws
will not end with McCart's ruling and sentence. He said an appeal has been
filed with the Ontario Court of Appeal and may be heard by late spring or
early summer.

UNIQUE CASE: Young told McCart while trafficking cases usually end in
jail, this one was unique.

He said Clay went into business to sell products and to create an outlet
to inform the public about what he believed was the truth about marijuana.

Young said Clay had what might be called "a noble intent" to sell seeds
and seedlings so people could grow them at home and not be forced into the
"black market."

Clay tried to provoke the police into charging him so he could challenge
the law. "Basically, he took his best shot and lost," said Young. "Now he
wants to move on."

The lawyer argued jail is often put aside in test cases. He told McCart
the judge himself had conceded there are questions to be raised about the law.

McCart's 27page ruling delivered in August found consumption of
marijuana is relatively harmless compared to hard drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

However, he said it is up to Parliament to change the laws and not the

Young told McCart that Clay is not a trafficker. "If anything, he is a
political activist . . . (who committed) an illegal act to call attention
to his cause."

Federal prosecutor Bill Buchner, who worked out the sentencing proposal
with Young, said Clay "tested the system with small amounts (of marijuana)."

Dealing with a normal drug trafficker, those amounts would only call for
a fine and probation, he said.

Buchner said he feels this is an isolated case and would not set a
precedent for future trafficking cases.

The prosecutor also took the unusual step of complimenting Clay and
Jordan Prentice, his coaccused, who was acquitted by McCart.


Throughout the long and trying court case, Buchner said the men conducted
themselves with decorum and have "shown respect for this institution."

He was referring obliquely to the mob of supporters who packed the
courtroom for McCart's ruling last month, some of whom smoked pot on the
courthouse steps afterward.

The audience Friday was considerably smaller. There were about 20 in the
courtroom, many of them reporters, police and court staff. 

 Hemp Nation *
Chris Clay * Email