CANNABIS CULTURE – Toronto’s Old City Hall is a gorgeous Romanesque building that was built in 1899 and continues to serve one of its original purposes, as a courthouse. By European standards it’s not that old of a building, but by Toronto standards it’s ancient. Fascinatingly, the historic buildings here are all dedicated to justice – Old City Hall, Don Jail and Osgoode Hall.
The only people who are visiting these buildings are prisoners, prosecutors, cops and criminal defense attorney’s. None are taking the time to marvel at the amazing structure, which has some amazing features, including the architect’s name E.J. Lennox carved in the upper eaves around the whole building.
Despite their best efforts at planning, Toronto city council soon outgrew the building and began another city hall project – Nathan Phillips Square. Advance planning is important and a visit to Old City Hall on Thursday, May 8 reminded me it’s critical to make contingency plans.
It was early afternoon, about 1pm when I received a message a friend had been pinched the night before on a cannabis charge and was awaiting bail at Old City Hall. A bailout team had already sprung into action and were relaying information from duty counsel. Usually I’m the one getting bailed out and being on this side of bailout was a new experience.
Who’s Your Surety
Potheads who are pinched by police need to know who’s going to be the person who is responsible for springing them. This person is known as a surety and it’s a friend, employer or parent. At 35 years-old my parents were prepared to step it up and they still are at 40, but I don’t want to put them through the stress.
The surety is responsible for ensuring the busted pothead follows all their bail conditions. Your surety is putting their income and in some cases their home up as a condition of your release. If you fail to comply with your bail conditions your surety loses out on whatever they put up as bail.
The surety must have a solid relationship that the court will trust because they will keep an eye on the charged cannabis enthusiast. Our friend, under a great deal of duress, didn’t have a surety lined up and the bailout team had to decide who could step up.
Hurry Up And Wait In Courtroom 101
Prohibition has created a whole courtroom at Old City Hall dedicated to bailing people out. Unlike the rest of the building, Courtroom 101 is decrepit, depressing and in demeaning to all involved. Unlike our friend, the majority of people who are in this courtroom are constantly coming-and-going.
You can almost smell the futility of prohibition in the air as a duty counsel and prosecutors haggle for a few moments on conditions and price of release. The justice of the peace oversees and interjects, but a bail hearing moves quick.
The hurry up and wait here is epic.
Friends spent all afternoon – about five hours in total – springing our friend. They had been there for two hours before I arrived to lend encouraging support. There’s nothing like a solid group of friends in 101 court when a friend is getting bailed out.
Our friend was released on thousand dollars bail, which his boss (Erin Goodwin) of Vapor Central put up on his behalf. As cannabis advocates, we, generally speaking, have a pretty good idea of how to improvise a plan.
These days I have pretty good plan that can be executed via my talented lawyer and friends. During the Saturday May 3 Global Marijuana March I joked with my surety while orchestrating a sit-in on Toronto’s busiest street – I may need you Sunday morning.
On a grow charge I bailed myself out on what is referred to as recognizance and I suspect I could do it again for a protest related charge given the popularity of R v. Mernagh.
If you’ve read this far, make a list of people who you would call on in the time of bail because down in the pens is not a time to be figuring out bail.
The Pens Of Old City Hall
While I don’t have a criminal record, I’ve been down in the pens where the prisoners are kept at Old City Hall numerous times. Twice in one week I saw a young addict attempt suicide there. On my last visit, the officer said he had seen my recent television appearance and asked where I wanted to be housed.
It’s shocking non violent cannabis folks are surrounded by some of Toronto’s worst folks. I got housed with many people who were street level drug criminals or addicts, a few were in on violent related charges and then there was Mr Child Pornography.
Demonstrating prohibition’s futility, a group of prisoners smuggled in crack rocks and got ripped just below the camera officers use to keep an eye on everyone near the shitter – which is semi private. It’s crazy officers can’t keep drugs out of a secure facility, but somehow think they can keep them off our streets.
Until society grasps prohibition isn’t working even in at Old City Hall – make a bail out plan.