HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medical Marijuana Advocate Free After Guilty Plea
Pubdate: Sat, 06 Jul 2002
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Times Colonist
Author: Sandra McCulloch


Judge Cites Accused's Accomplishment, Advocacy In Decision

A 32-year-old Victoria man who pleaded guilty to possession of less than 
three kilograms of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking walked out of 
Victoria provincial court Friday free of a criminal record.

"I feel amazing and greatly relieved," said Philippe Lucas outside court.

"This has been a heavy weight on my shoulders for the last 20 months."

Lucas received an absolute discharge on a matter that was closely watched 
by those seeking the decriminalization of marijuana. Lucas is the president 
of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, an organization that provides 
marijuana to its members for medical purposes. The society has operated 
from a commercially zoned site in Oak Bay for 14 months with tacit police 

But the attitude of the police changed when Lucas reported a break-in and 
that one kilogram of marijuana had been stolen.

While the marijuana was recovered, Lucas was charged with possession when 
he claimed ownership.

Judge Robert Higinbotham said the case must be viewed in a broad context. 
"To date the combination of federal regulations and the College of 
Physicians trepidation has made it extremely difficult for applicants to 
obtain approval to use marijuana.

"Further, the federal government has so far been unable to ensure any legal 
supply of marijuana to those whom Health Canada thinks need it as therapy. 
This is a particular hardship for those who cannot grow it."

Lucas is articulate, intelligent and fluently bilingual in both official 
languages, noted Higinbotham.

"He has ... become an important resource both in Canada and our local 
community on the issue of the medicinal use of marijuana. He has consulted 
with, and influenced, both federal cabinet ministers and local city 

"During the course of this hearing I was made aware through correspondence 
and video evidence that he is highly regarded by these levels of government 
as a source of information on the subject of the medicinal use of marijuana."

Lucas contracted hepatitis C at age 12 through a post-surgical blood 
transfusion. He only found out about his illness when he was screened to 
work as a child-care worker.

Symptoms of nausea and general malaise set in soon after and Lucas started 
using marijuana to remain comfortable.

He now has government permission to grow and consume marijuana.

Crown prosecutor Lori McMorran asked for a fine rather than a jail sentence.

Defence counsel John Conroy asked for an absolute discharge on the basis 
that Lucas sold marijuana for compassionate purposes, not greed, and that 
the society kept careful and accurate records of both inventory and finances.

The society took reasonable steps to ensure only those people referred by 
doctors became members and that the surrounding community was not at undue 
risk, Conroy said.

This case has no bearing on those who want to use marijuana on a 
recreational basis.

Higinbotham said the case "ought not to be viewed as relevant to the debate 
over the legal prescription against the recreational use of marijuana.

"In the medicinal sense, the drug clearly has value, and this value 
probably outweighs the risks to the individual and the community."

An absolute discharge is appropriate in this case, Higinbotham said, 
because he needs no rehabilitation, which is normally done through a 
conditional sentence or probation order.

There has been no harm done to victims or the community, the judge said.

"In fact, quite the contrary is true, according to the evidence," 
Higinbotham said.

He stated that Lucas has a well-developed sense of responsibility, as 
demonstrated by his guilty plea, his honest acknowledgment of what he has 
done and his principled arguments before the court.
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