The Trial of the Century



      74 years of cannabis prohibition
      could end here!

      ??? Experts in marijuana and the
      law predict that this is the case that could really do it. The wall of
      misinformation and misunderstanding may come tumbling down, and Cannabis
      Canadians are looking forward to that happy day!

      The Background

      ??? It all started on May
      17, 1995, when Hemp Nation proprietor Chris Clay was arrested for selling
      viable cannabis seeds and cuttings from his store in London, Ontario. Clay
      got together with Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young and his partner
      Paul Burstein to launch a constitutional challenge to Canadian cannabis
      laws. Professor Young had been planning and dreaming of such a case for
      over ten years.

      Clay and Young prepared for the trial
      in the months that followed, carefully enlisting expert witnesses and publicizing
      their efforts through the media and on their website. As the trial date
      approached, the powers-that-be apparently began to become concerned about
      the seriousness of Young’s case. The Crown offered to drop all charges
      against Clay if he would plead guilty to simple possession, but he refused.

      On December 6, 1996, in an obvious effort
      to put pressure on Clay to plea bargain and drop his court challenge, RCMP
      and London police raided Clay’s office, warehouse and the retail outlet
      of Hemp Nation. Police confiscated about $40,000 worth of seeds and paraphernalia
      along with the store’s computers and financial records. They simultaneously
      raided Chris’ home. “I was just waking up and heard a loud banging at the
      door; once I opened it, the police poured into the house and searched it,
      finding a gram of marijuana. I was placed under arrest and taken to jail,
      where I remained for four days.”

      ??? The police had purchased
      seeds in June of 1996, but had waited until the store received its Christmas
      stock before making the raid. They deliberately busted Clay on a Friday,
      forcing him to spend three nights in jail before he could seek release
      on $10,000 bail the following Monday. “While the raids took place a man
      robbed a bank a block from our store, then had some drinks at a bar two
      doors down before escaping on foot.” remarked Clay.

      ??? After the December
      raid Clay re-stocked Hemp Nation with only hemp products, such as paper,
      clothing, soap, and food, avoiding seeds and paraphernalia for the time

      The Trial

      ??? The trial extended from
      April 28 to May 14, and received a fair amount of media coverage in Ontario,
      including an introductory story in the Toronto Star, occasional articles
      in the Ottawa Citizen and almost daily coverage in the London Free Press,
      as well as a spot on the CBC news program The National. Brief trial accounts
      were also made on many local radio and TV stations across Canada, but the
      trial garnered no comprehensive national coverage.

      hemp or marijuana

      ???? Alan Young began
      the trial on April 28 by clarifying the difference between industrial hemp
      and marijuana. Young argued that Clay’s seeds and cuttings had not been
      tested for THC content, and that had they been tested, they would not have
      exceeded the internationally accepted 0.3% THC hemp/marijuana threshold
      established by defense witness Ernest Small of Agriculture Canada.

      ??? Young pointed out that,
      under the Narcotic Control Act, the hemp tie Chris Clay was wearing to
      look properly respectful and spiffed-up for the trial would likely test
      positive as “cannabis marijuana”.

      hemp potential

      ??? Gordon Scheifele, a
      former agronomist who grew licensed plots of cannabis plants in Ontario
      and plans to grow more, told the court he sees great potential for hemp
      as an alternative cash crop. Scheifele testified that hemp can be used
      for paper, fabric, building materials, automobile interiors, seed oil,
      and binding material.

      driving & social skills

      ??? Expert psychiatrist
      Heinz Lehmann testified that a driver talking on a cellular phone is more
      of a menace on the roads than one who has just smoked a joint. Lehmann
      has treated nearly 20,000 patients in his long career. He squelched theories
      of developing tolerance from marijuana use, and the idea that marijuana
      use leads to the use of other drugs.

      ??? Lehmann cited a study
      which found that youths who have experimented with cannabis are better
      adjusted and have superior social skills than teens who “just say no”.

      costs of prohibition

      ??? Eric Single, preventive
      medicine and biostatistics professor at the University of Toronto, testified
      that the total financial cost of all substance abuse in Canada was $18.5
      billion. Illicit drugs accounted for only $1.4 billion, with alcohol and
      tobacco costing Canadians over $17 billion.

      ??? Single also cited a
      1994 Health Canada poll which found that 69.1% of Canadians do not support
      criminal punishment for cannabis possession.

      tool of oppression

      ??? On May 12, Simon Fraser
      University criminology professor Neil Boyd discussed the history of Canadian
      cannabis laws. Boyd told the court that cannabis laws were quietly enacted
      without informed debate as a tool to oppress Canada’s Asian minority.

      medicinal use

      ??? Lester Grinspoon, a
      psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School testified there is no justification
      for prohibiting cannabis for medicinal use. The professor concluded that
      cannabis is the safest of all intoxicants, on a level with caffeine, yet
      beneficial for alleviating pain and other discomforts.

      Grinspoon emphasized that it is impossible
      to overdose and there have been no deaths from cannabis intake. “In the
      future, marijuana will be recognized as a remarkable medicine” Grinspoon
      told the court. He said cannabis should be legalized and controlled like


      ??? On May 13, two women
      told the court that illicit cannabis smoking has been the only medicinal
      relief they have found for their ailments. Lynn Harichy, who suffers from
      multiple sclerosis, praised Clay for referring her to a London cannabis
      buyer’s club. Brenda Rochford, a victim of Ehler Danlos syndrome, told
      how smoking cannabis helps her cope with her constant pain and intense
      muscle spasms.

      level harm

      ??? Dr John Paul Morgan,
      medical professor at the City of New York Medical School, has spent 21
      years studying all facets of drugs, primarily marijuana. He testified that
      smoking cannabis, even heavy smoking, is less harmful than alcohol and
      tobacco. Dr Morgan also testified that the effects of cannabis are “low
      level”, in the range of caffeine, and he challenged much misinformation
      about marijuana, blaming the media for being biased to “show harm”.

      new law

      ??? On May 14, the Controlled
      Drugs and Substances Act replaced the Narcotic Control Act of 1961. The
      new law broadens police powers of search so that they can use a single
      warrant to search every person in a bar or pub. It also allows for the
      seizure of homes used to grow cannabis, and eliminates jury trials for
      possession and trafficking in under 3 kilos.

      ??? Defense lawyer Alan
      Young said he thought that the new legislation did little to improve the
      acceptance of cannabis in Canada. “It gives the police the ability to do
      reverse stings. In other words, they can sucker people in by trying to
      sell them drugs.” said Young during a break.

      crown’s expert

      ??? Also on May 14, the
      Crown presented their only expert witness, 76 year-old Dr Harold Kalant
      from the Addiction Research Foundation. Under cross-examination, Dr Kalant
      concurred with defense witness Dr John Morgan that there is no measurable
      difference in the levels of tar in cannabis and tobacco smoke.

      Saying he would not consider cannabis
      use by his own children criminal behavior, Kalant called Canada’s treatment
      of cannabis users “regrettable”.

      the wrong

      ??? The trial concluded
      with Alan Young asking the court to right the wrongs that have been inflicted
      on Canadian society, and change the cannabis laws. Mr Young said that if
      politicians won’t change the law, then they must be prodded by the courts.
      “I hope I’ve provided you with sufficient tools for this court to be a
      vehicle for change.”

      ??? Crown attorney Kevin
      Wilson disagreed, saying that this area is not up to the court, and should
      be left to the legislature. “This is a policy issue and the Charter does
      not empower the courts to take over policy making from Parliament.”

      ??? Wilson also cited the
      recent Senate committee report on Bill C-8, which stopped short of recommending
      that the House of Commons decriminalize marijuana. “Because they thought
      it would be futile.” replied Justice John McCart, showing that he had been
      paying attention, and hopefully betraying his sympathies as well.

      ??? According to Chris
      Clay, “Judge John McCart seemed quite fair and had an open mind… he made
      some very interesting comments that showed he’s absorbing the evidence.”

      this summer

      ??? Judge McCart will take
      more time to absorb the many thousands of pages of evidence. He is expected
      to announce a date for his decision on June 24 and will likely render judgement
      in the late summer or early fall.

      University of Ottawa professor Joseph
      Magnet, an expert in constitutional law, says Clay’s chances are credible.
      “Young has made a very serious defence,” he said. Similar arguments succeeded
      in overturning Canada’s abortion laws and almost succeeded in making prostitution
      legal. If Judge McCart accepts Alan Young’s argument, then it could serve
      as a precedent for courts across the country.

      ??? At a minimum, a verdict
      in Clay’s favour will put cannabis laws in limbo until the Ontario Court
      of Appeal renders a decision. Even if Judge McCart only partially agrees
      with Clay, accepting the argument that Clay might have been selling industrial
      hemp seeds and plants, the Crown will likely appeal the decision at their
      own expense of around $10,000. If the decision goes against Clay then he
      will have to pay the $10,000 for an appeal. For now the ball is in the
      Judge McCart’s court.

      For More Info

      Contact Chris Clay at Hemp Nation: 343
      Richmond St, London, Ontario, N6A 3C2; tel (519) 433-5267; email [email protected];