HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Nova Scotia Judge Rules Against Man Who Wants To
Pubdate: Tue, 10 Sep 2002
Source: Canadian Press (Canada Wire)
Copyright: 2002 The Canadian Press (CP)
Author: Alison Auld, Canadian Press


HALIFAX - In an unusual legal case, a Nova Scotia judge ruled Tuesday that 
the rights of a man who uses marijuana to treat chronic pain would not be 
violated if he were sent to prison and cut off from his steady supply of 
the drug.

Michael Patriquen, 49, of Halifax failed to convince the Supreme Court 
justice that she should delay sentencing him for drug trafficking so he 
could argue in a special hearing that his charter rights would be trampled 
if he were sent to a federal penitentiary and denied access to medicinal 

Patriquen, who was convicted in 2000, received a federal exemption this 
year to grow and possess a certain amount of the drug prescribed to him to 
treat neck pain caused by a car accident three years ago.

His lawyer said he should not be sentenced until Ottawa can make legal 
medicinal marijuana available to him while her serves a six-year sentence 
for selling the drug in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

But Justice Suzanne Hood ruled Tuesday that Patriquen's rights haven't been 
violated because he has yet to begin serving his sentence. Only then, when 
he is deprived access to marijuana, could there be evidence proving his 
rights had been denied.

"It is speculative to say at this point that Corrections Canada will 
violate Mr. Patriquen's rights," Hood said in a half-hour reading of her 
decision before sentencing him to six years in prison.

"There is no evidence that a charter breach will occur."

The dismissal caused an uproar in the courtroom as Patriquen's wife, 
Melanie Stephen, jumped to her feet and bellowed to the judge that she had 
sentenced her husband too harshly.

"God have mercy on your soul, your honour," she screamed. She began to sob 
as security guards dragged her from the room. "This is not Iraq or China."

Crown lawyers argued Patriquen, who has a long criminal record involving 
drugs, was merely trying to delay his sentencing. Crown attorney James 
Martin said he should file a complaint with the Federal Court, which Hood 
ruled has the jurisdiction to address the issue.

In a brief statement to the court after he was sentenced, Patriquen called 
the recommendation ridiculous since the Correctional Service of Canada has 
no supply of marijuana it can give to prisoners, even if they have 
exemptions or medical prescriptions for the drug.

"They can't give me something they don't have," said Patriquen, a short, 
stocky man with a yellow-stained moustache.

"I have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment at your hand," he 
said angrily to Hood.

Chantal Albert, a spokeswoman with the Correctional Service, said 
Patriquen's health needs would be assessed, but there is little they could 
do for him since there is no legal supply of the drug.

"Our bottom line now is that we have no legal source to get marijuana and, 
of course, we will not try to obtain it illegally," she said from Moncton, N.B.

The case, which dates back to 1999 when the investigation began, is thought 
to be one of the first in the country to challenge the courts over the 
availability of medical marijuana for convicted criminals.

Albert said there are no other offenders in the system who hold exemptions.

It is expected Patriquen will file a complaint with the Federal Court once 
he is in a federal prison and is denied marijuana. But even if the court 
agrees he is entitled to receive a steady supply of the drug, it could be 
years before it is made available by Ottawa.

The federal Health Department is hoping in late fall or early winter to 
conduct clinical trials on research-grade marijuana being grown at federal 
sites in Flin Flon, Man.

Health Minister Anne McLellan refuted suggestions recently that she is 
backing away from her plan to distribute marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Patriquen was involved in large selling and growing operations that 
stretched from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. The RCMP began a surveillance 
operation on Patriquen and several associates in 1999, and often found 
large amounts of cash stashed in secret compartments in cars, home stereos 
and suitcases.

In March 1999, officers were installing a tracking device on his car when 
they discovered six bundles of cash totalling $26,000. On another occasion 
when he was returning to Halifax from St. John's, Nfld., $100,000 was found 
in his luggage. He was finally charged in 2000 after hundreds of marijuana 
plants were seized from the homes of co-conspirators and $13,000 was taken 
from his house.

The case could have wide implications for the more than 800 people in the 
country who have special exemptions to grow and possess marijuana. It could 
influence the way a judge handles sentencing if they are brought up on 
criminal charges.
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