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Pubdate: Thu, 07 Oct 2004
Source: Mirror (CN QU)
Copyright: 2004 Communications Gratte-Ciel Ltee
Author: Kristian Gravenor
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Stoner Slaying Verdict Peeves Pot Advocates

A decision two weeks ago by Longueuil court Judge Gilles Hebert to accept 
that marijuana led a man to kill his roommate has marijuana advocates fuming.

Originally charged with second degree murder, Martin Veilleux, 31, pleaded 
guilty to a reduced sentence of eight years for involuntary manslaughter 
for stabbing his roommate eight times on March 5, 2003. Veilleux, who had 
consumed a wide variety of drugs over the years and had gone into drug 
rehab eight times in the last decade, reportedly smoked marijuana prior to 
the killing.

The verdict isn't good news for the ongoing effort to rehabilitate the 
reputation of the wacky weed. "It feels like we're back in 1940 in the age 
of reefer madness. I can understand that the judge, given the evidence he 
heard, may have reached that conclusion, but I feel he did it in error," 
says Marijuana Party leader Boris St-Maurice, who has tirelessly lobbied to 
legalize the drug. He also followed this case closely.

St-Maurice notes that no scientific evidence was presented to justify the 
claim that marijuana caused the killing. "The judge mentioned the high 
levels of THC but no one knows what he was smoking, so reaching quick 
conclusions without the whole picture is wrong," he says. "The fact is, 
marijuana doesn't cause psychosis. It's one of the safest drugs being used, 
and if there was any truth to the notion that marijuana caused this kind of 
behaviour, given the millions of marijuana users in Canada, there would be 
blood running in the streets."

The reduced sentence was based partly on a report by expert defence witness 
Dr. Louis Morissette, a psychiatrist at the Pinel Institute for the 
criminally insane, who considers marijuana psychosis not-so rare. "The 
great majority consume it and have no problem, but [marijuana psychosis] is 
something you see at psychiatric emergency wards," he says. "Marijuana is 
not as harmless as we believe nor is it catastrophic every time. One must 
talk about the individual, the context in which he takes marijuana."

Morissette concedes that dangerous accompanying agents mixed in Veilleux's 
pot could conceivably be at the root of the stabbing and suggests that 
legalization of marijuana could lead to more quality control. "It could be 
like alcohol. If you buy alcohol at the SAQ, you can drink it and have a 
headache tomorrow, but you won't be blind."

Morissette says it's not unusual for a judge to lessen a sentence due to 
diminished capacity caused by marijuana.

But one Universite de Montreal criminologist disagrees. "I've followed it 
very closely for 30 years and I don't know any other such case where mental 
disassociation is considered caused by cannabis consumption. From what I 
know such cases must be extremely rare," says Marie-Andree Bertrand. She 
also considers the decision to lessen a sentenced due to somebody being 
extremely stoned as outdated. "Thirty years ago drunkenness and 
hallucinogenic drugs could be invoked as excuses, now it's the reverse. If 
you have an accident while drunk, it's considered even more serious."

Bertrand, who has advocated legalization for decades, is unimpressed by the 
ruling. "So marijuana drives you crazy and makes you want to kill, it makes 
you criminal, and takes you over like a demon. This decision brings us back 
to 1928 when people used to believe these things."
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