The Ontario Court of Appeal is set to release its much anticipated decision on a constitutional challenge to the nation’s marijuana laws this Monday at 10am EST.
The case involves former London hemp store owner Chris Clay. Clay was arrested in 1993 after openly selling marijuana plants from his store, Hemp Nation. Clay used the internet to raise over $40,000 for his legal defense fund, and Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young and prominent Toronto lawyer Paul Burstein used the case to challenge Canada’s marijuana laws in what has been described as the most comprehensive legislative review of its kind since a federal royal commission examined the issue in the early 1970s.
According to Professor Young, “The Court of Appeal has taken ten long months to review the thousands of pages of evidence tendered. This is a potentially groundbreaking case that could lead Canada out of its futile war on drugs.”
The initial trial took place in April and May 1995. The defense presented a number of high-profile witnesses to debunk the myths surrounding cannabis use and the trial attracted international media attention. Witnesses included Harvard psychiatrist Dr Lester Grinspoon, Patricia Erickson of the Addiction Research Foundation, Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd and two original members of the Ledain Commission, Marie Andree-Bertrand and Order of Canada recipient Dr Heinz Lehmann.
In August 1995, Ontario Superior Court Justice John McCart issued his decision, ruling that there is evidence that marijuana is relatively harmless compared to alcohol and tobacco. However, he fell short of striking down the legislation, instead suggesting that Parliament should change the law instead of the courts.
The Ontario Court of Appeal heard the case last October, along with the Crown’s appeal of a lower court ruling that granted Toronto epileptic Terry Parker the right to grow and possess marijuana to control his seizures. The Appeals Court will address the Parker case on Monday as well.
For more information, contact:
Professor Alan Young; Office: 416-736-5595; Home: 416-534-1023
Paul Burstein; Office: 416-204-1825
Chris Clay; Office: 604-740-5613; Home: 604-885-0284; email: [email protected]