HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Is Pot The Demon Weed?
Pubdate: Thu, 14 Dec 2000
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Contact:  #250, 4990-92 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, T6B 3A1 Canada
Fax: (780) 468-0139
Author: Mindelle Jacobs
Bookmark: (Parker, Terry)
Bookmark: (Krieger, Grant)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Citizens rightfully expect the state to take the lead in setting
public policy, but for some reason Ottawa is incapable of making
appropriate decisions on the medical use of marijuana.

Instead, the federal government has been willing to sit back and let
the courts set the agenda.

First there was the ruling in July by the Ontario Court of Appeal
which struck down the ban on marijuana possession in the Controlled
Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).

And this week, an Alberta judge quashed another section of the law
that prohibits the cultivation of pot for medicinal purposes.

In both cases, the judges declared the federal law unconstitutional
because it doesn't take into account the needs of those who smoke pot
for therapeutic reasons.

The Ontario case centred around Toronto epileptic Terry Parker, who
uses pot to reduce his seizures.

"Forcing Parker to choose between his health and imprisonment violates
his right to liberty and security of the person," the Ontario Court of
Appeal ruled in its unanimous judgment.

The court was also blunt in its assessment of the CDSA's exemption
provision which allows people to use marijuana for medicinal purposes
with special permission from the minister of health.

The possibility of such an exemption dependent upon the "unfettered
and unstructured" discretion of the minister violates the principles
of fundamental justice, the court declared.

In this week's ruling, Alberta Justice Darlene Acton also touched on
the farcical exemption law which permits sick people to grow and smoke
pot but bans them from buying it.

"There is no legal source for cannabis," she said. "The exemption
triggers the absurdity that to obtain a product one has to take part
in an illegal act."

For Grant Krieger, Acton's ruling is a long-awaited victory. He can
now grow pot for his personal use without being dragged back to court.

The judge didn't allow Krieger to sell pot to other sick people and
that's probably for the best until the federal government brings in
legislation that properly addresses the issue.

It's too late for Ottawa to deal with the matter at its own leisurely
pace, however. The government now has a judge-imposed deadline.

Both the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Alberta Court of Queen's
Bench gave the government a year to revise the law. Otherwise,
Ontarians will be allowed to possess pot and Albertans will be
permitted to grow it.

In the Ontario case, Ottawa has until the end of July 2001 to change
the law.

The government was probably hoping to stall until its pot-growing
operation and clinical trials involving medicinal pot were under way.
(Canada's official marijuana producer is expected to be announced
early next year.)

But clinical trials could take years. In the meantime, sick and dying
Canadians are being criminalized for lighting up joints.

"(Ottawa) tried to sit it out and that backfired," says Benedikt
Fischer, a public health sciences expert at the University of Toronto.

Ottawa still believes pot is the demon weed. Everyone else knows
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