B.C. Court Rules Medical Marijuana Program Unconstitutional

Former NDP candidate Dana Larsen has opened a medical marijuana dispensary in Vancouver. (Photograph by Bill Keay/Canwest News)Former NDP candidate Dana Larsen has opened a medical marijuana dispensary in Vancouver. (Photograph by Bill Keay/Canwest News)A B.C. Supreme Court justice has endorsed a recent federal court decision saying the national marijuana program is unconstitutional.

Justice Marvyn Koenigsberg gave Ottawa a year to fix the medical-marijuana access regulations so compassion clubs or producers can get together and run a common marijuana-growing operation.

At the moment, the federal government restricts any licensed grower to supplying only one licensed user and prohibits more than three growers from pooling resources.

Both those restrictions are unconstitutional, Koenigsberg said.

Although she ruled the regulations are constitutionally wanting, she also found Mathew Beren of Victoria guilty of illegally trafficking and producing marijuana. But she gave him an absolute discharge.

A 35-year-old hydroponic-store owner, Beren was charged in 2004 following a raid on a research facility operated by the Vancouver Island Compassion Society.

His lawyers argued he should not be convicted because he was providing a needed service, as the marijuana regulations erected an unreasonable barrier to patients’ access to needed medication.

Justice Koenigsberg agreed, but said Beren had been selling to some people who were not authorized under the program to possess pot. And no matter how compassionate his motives, the rule of law must be respected.

“In all my years on the bench,” the veteran jurist added, “if there were ever a case for an absolute discharge, it’s this one.”

The courtroom, packed with Beren’s supporters and local pot activists, exploded in applause.

The federal court of appeal issued a judgment in October stating the marijuana-access regulations didn’t pass constitutional muster for similar reasons, and that case is being appealed by Ottawa to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Prosecutor Peter Eccles said afterwards he had no comment.

Beren, his voice cracking, said he was happy the five-year ordeal was over.

“I was facing 14 years or more in jail, of course I’m relieved,” he told reporters.

He said he knew the risks, but couldn’t stand to see sick people suffer because they couldn’t get their medicine.

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– Article from The Vancouver Sun