Canadian pot possession laws still invalid?

On August 4, police in Smith Falls, Ontario raided medical cannabis grower Carasel, a company whose owners hoped to provide high-quality pot to government-licensed medical users. At the heart of the raid is a basic disagreement between the federal government and Ontario courts which invalidates Canada’s marijuana possession laws.
Soon after the August 4 raid, renowned cannabis defender and university law professor Alan Young announced an exciting new court case. Associates of Carasel are suing the federal government. The grounds for the suit go back almost a year, to October 7, 2003, when the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered the federal government to amend med-pot regulations so that growers, like Carasel, could apply to grow for more than one licensed med-pot user. Currently, licensed growers can only provide medicine to one patient. Despite the court order, the federal government never made the change, and so Carasel’s application was either never processed or denied, and they were eventually raided.

The federal government also failed to comply with the Ontario Court’s order to make med-pot exemptions easier for patients to get. Currently, the regulations require that certain patients get the approval of two medical specialists, an almost impossible feat for people suffering from rare illnesses or living in rural areas. The court ordered that the government change the requirement to one specialist.

Because of the government’s history of bad faith, Alan Young plans to be a witness in the case rather than an attorney.

Alan YoungAlan Young“I have the right issue, the right litigants, but I knew I wasn’t going to do the case for a number of reasons,” Young told Cannabis Culture. “Primarily I want to provide evidence of Health Canada’s obstructionist approach, and because I’ve been doing this work pretty much from the beginning, the evidence mostly comes from me. [Compassion Centre lawyer] Ron Marzel is willing to work on this as attorney.”

There are even deeper issues behind the federal government’s bad faith and stalling around med-pot. The Ontario Court of Appeal’s October, 2003 order to change med-pot regulations was an attempt to sew up a constitutional deficiency in the possession laws. When the Ontario Court of Appeal made the order to change the med-pot regulations, they also ordered a period of pot-possession amnesty, from August 1, 2001 to the date of their ruling. During this period, pot possession laws were deemed unconstitutional.

So the government’s continued failure to make the change required by the Ontario Court of Appeal means that pot possession laws – even for recreational use – are still constitutionally deficient.

Across Canada, challenges to the law are mounting. In Quebec, for example, Marijuana Party Leader Marc Boris St Maurice is arguing the constitutionality of his marijuana possession charges.

“Whether you’re carrying marijuana because you think it looks pretty, or because you found it, or because perhaps you like to rub it on your hair at night, because it smells nice. None of that is relevant. Whether it is for medical use or other use, none of that is relevant,” St-Maurice told the press. “The law is bad, and so the offense must be taken out.”Alan Young