On October 6 and 7, lawyers Alan Young and Paul Burstein were in the Ontario Court of Appeal to further Chris Clay’s constitutional challenge for recreational and medical uses of marijuana. The challenge stems from charges of cultivation and trafficking against Clay, who was arrested in 1996 for selling clones from his London, Ontario store, Hemp Nation. The store was the first of its kind in Canada.
Clay’s challenge was combined with that of Terry Parker, who suffers from epilepsy, and was the first Canadian to receive a constitutional exemption to use marijuana medicinally in an Ontario lower court. On the same dates as Clay’s trial, Parker’s lawyer Aaron Harnett was fighting an appeal by the Crown to overturn the lower court decision which granted Parker the right to use and grow cannabis.
During the Clay portion of the trial, Young argued that parliament does not have the right to criminalize the relatively harmless activity of marijuana use.
“You can kill lab rats with sugar. You can’t kill them with marijuana,” said Young in court. “They’ve created a law to prevent Canadians from becoming a nation of wheezers and coughers. That can’t be the intent of criminal law!”
In Clay’s original constitutional challenge, Justice McCart agreed with Young’s argument that cannabis was relatively harmless, but found Clay guilty with the excuse that it was Parliament’s job to change the law.
The Clay and Parker cases will almost certainly end up in Canada’s Supreme Court, where the issues of recreational and medical cannabis use could be conclusively decided for all Canadians.