HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Charges Stayed For Man Eating Medicinal Pot
Pubdate: Sat, 06 Jul 2002
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Allan Chambers, of the Edmonton Journal
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


An Edmonton man who ate two grams of marijuana a day for about 10 years to 
deal with lower back pain is in limbo after a judge stayed possession 
charges against him, his lawyer said Friday.

Meanwhile, advocates of decriminalization called on the federal government 
to end the confusion surrounding the medical use of marijuana by legalizing 
the substance.

Brian Oates, the 45-year-old welder at the centre of the case, wasn't 
available for comment Friday.

But his lawyer, Barry McMullan, said his client "is in a bit of limbo" 
after police seized 71 plants and a growing operation from his modest 
north-end home.

The trafficking charge was dismissed and the possession charge stayed 
recently by provincial court judge P.G.C. Ketchum, who accepted a defence 
argument that Oates' constitutional rights were violated by hitches in a 
new federal program which grants exemptions permitting the medical use of 

Oates' lawyer argued that delays in federal clinical trials, combined with 
the reluctance of doctors to sign exemption forms because of opposition by 
their professional associations, made it impossible for Oates to obtain an 

The judge agreed. "In my judgment, it is not in accordance with the 
principles of fundamental justice to criminalize this accused (Oates) while 
he waits for a medically approved source of raw marijuana to be made 
legally available to him," he wrote.

Munir Ahmad, director of the Edmonton Compassion Network, called on Ottawa 
to clear up confusion by ending delays and moving towards legalization. 
Ahmad speculated Ottawa is purposely creating delays in its exemption 
program in order eventually to kill it.

Federal health spokesperson Andrew Swift said the ruling, similar to an 
Ontario court ruling in a case involving Toronto resident Terry Parker, 
won't sway Ottawa from the process it's developed.

The federal government intends to do clinical trials on high-grade 
marijuana to determine its medical benefits. But the trials have been 
delayed because of problems in producing the right grade of marijuana.

Ketchum ruled the delays have thwarted Oates' right to treatment. The judge 
said he accepted Oates' testimony that he had tried unsuccessfully to treat 
severe pain in his lower back and legs by conventional means.

On the advice of friends, Oates also experimented with marijuana by smoking 
it. That proved unsuccessful, then followed other advice and began to eat 
it. "This time it had an effect," the judge wrote. "He found he could sleep 
at night."

He was also able to resume work -- a vast improvement in a condition that 
left him barely able to walk at times.
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