HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Ottawa To Appeal Marijuana Ruling
Pubdate: Tue, 11 Feb 2003
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A5
Copyright: 2003, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Brian Laghi


OTTAWA -- The federal government will go to court to save its muddled 
marijuana laws even as it is promising to liberalize them.

Health Canada moved yesterday to appeal an Ontario court decision from 
earlier this month that strikes down Ottawa's refusal to release a cache of 
pot grown in a Manitoba mine for medicinal use.

At the same time, however, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon has said he 
plans to bring in legislation this spring that will decriminalize the drug.

Lawyers trying to get the cannabis released said the government appears to 
be in chaos on the issue.

"It's very schizophrenic," said Alan Young, a Toronto lawyer defending 
patients who want access to the drug. "They're trying to sustain a 
litigation strategy to support the law while at the same time a political 
strategy that brings it into question. They're two contradictory policies."

He said that the government is wasting time and money, but that eventually, 
the laws will be liberalized.

"Marijuana prohibition from its very beginning was a waste of money and 
what you're seeing now is that last bit of squandering. It's ridiculous."

However, Health spokesman Ryan Baker said the department wants to ensure 
that the courts have the opportunity to rule on the case. It will be heard 
in the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The latest development has its roots in a case brought by a man with 
epilepsy that forced government to liberalize the availability of pot to 
those suffering from ailments. The courts, at the time, ruled that Canada's 
possession law was discriminatory because it unfairly punished those who 
needed the drug for medical purposes.

The ruling led to a decision by then health minister Allan Rock to order 
that pot be grown at an abandoned Manitoba mine to be distributed for 
medicinal uses. The move would have allowed the offence of possession to 
stay on the books.

However, Mr. Rock's successor, Anne McLellan, has refused to distribute the 
drug, a decision that was struck down this month by the Ontario Superior 
Court. The court ruled that it is wrong to make the drug legal for sick 
Canadians and then not provide a legal supply.

Ms. McLellan, who visited The Globe and Mail editorial board yesterday 
morning, said plans are under way to use the government-sanctioned 
marijuana growing in Manitoba for "open" clinical trials.

People exempt to the country's laws would agree to be monitored by 
researchers running these trials, she said.

The government has become confident only recently that the cannabis grown 
under contract by Prairie Plant Systems is of a quality consistent enough 
to be used in medical trials, she said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom