CANNABIS CULTURE – Ottawa, December 6, Canadian Supreme Court – In October 2012, Gerrard Comeau was arrested for transporting liquor from Quebec to New Brunswick. He had 2 cases of 24 bottles of Sleeman’s Light beer; 2 cases of 24 bottles of Miller Genuine Draft beer; 2 cases of 24 bottles of Molson beer; 3 cases of 20 bottles of Budweiser Light beer; 3 cases of 20 bottles of Budweiser beer; 3 cases of 30 cans of Coors Light beer; 2 bottles of whiskey, 750 ml per bottle; and 1 bottle of Stinger Premixxx liqueur, 1.4 litre and received a ticket for $292.50
Five years later we are now at the Canadian Supreme Court and it’s cold, it’s windy. People have been waiting on the steps since six in the morning until opening at nine. The Queen vs Comeau is the show of the day. It will be played out over two days, Dec. 6th and Dec. 7th. Today was episode one, where a whack a mole baker’s dozen of Attorney General representatives laid out their cases and handed in their Factums. Cannabis Culture was there with the dynamic duo of Kirk Tousaw and Jack Lloyd getting ready for tomorrow’s over the bow shot.
Lawyers for Cannabis Culture Kirk Tousaw and Jack Lloyd
The inspiring court room has sixty-foot high ceilings, black walnut walls, four large video monitors and seating for about a hundred. By way of Gold Seal vs Alberta, by way of Section 121 of the 1867 Constitution Act, by way of stare decisis we will shortly be hearing a case that is the glue of rock and roll and life, beer, dope, taxes and the free trade of Woodstock Nation. A hundred-people stuffed the courtroom to capacity. If you didn’t have a ticket, if you weren’t wearing robes then you were one of the lucky thirty or so members of the public to get in. It’s probably easier to get a back-stage pass to a Springsteen concert.
Dedicated legal wise students started lining up at the court house doors at six in the morning to avoid what was sure to be a line up to the sidewalk.
Inside the courtroom and in the lobby, it was intriguing to be surrounded by the very same people who have wanted to lock us up all these years. The line of representatives from Attorney General offices across the land negated the demand for colour film in a sea of black and white.
Nine Canadian Supreme Court Justices sat as jury attempting to wrap their heads around the question, should Canada have a single national economy? And we would talk of many things, candles, wax and wings.
It’s about this S-121 thing. It’s seen as a trade barrier by some and protectionist by others. Comeau said The Liquor Control Board Act of New Brunswick violated free trade between provinces and Judge LeBlanc agreed. That’s how we got here.
See, if one provincial monopoly is declared illegal then that fate may fall to others as well. So yes, to a Cannabis Control Board of Ontario or maybe now not so much? Beer, wine, dairy, chickens, eggs, turkeys, more beer, more wine interests and Cannabis Culture have all become Interveners in this case.
Distribution and monopoly have a lot to do with the direction of business and consumer use. What we eat, drink, smoke and buy has historically been controlled by a combination of Federal and Provincial groups through regulation and taxation, at what point does it become a punitive barrier to free trade and thus illegal? That’s one of the multi-billion-dollar questions.
Comeau is asking Justice to consider the context of Canada at its roots. There has been an evolution of business, commerce and geographic structure to the land. Have the outer forces changed, was this meant to be a temporary thing?
The Richardson case got mentioned along with Section 6 of our Charter.
They discussed the adverse effects of imposing disadvantages and impeding the flow of goods.
“S-121 had a higher purpose,” said another AG rep, but no one could figure out what that could be exactly.
It was agreed that it is a valid provincial purpose to raise revenue
There was a strong question of property and civil rights and the overpowering influence of state commerce.
S-121 was the original non-competition agreement to ensure that the province would not compete with Federal Institutions, but the province can not enact trade barriers, ouch.
Comprehending history and the Dominion of Canada and the BNA act are necessary libraries to explore with a magnifying glass. It’s a history lesson. Was 121 supposed to be permanent, does it undercut Federal trade law?
“It’s important to understand 121 in light of jurisprudence that came before it. What were the legal conditions at that time?” asked Justice.
“No need to re-open Gold Seal,” said the Ontario AG rep. The sweat was flying there. The AG rep from Alberta wasn’t too keen on that either. Let’s just keep things as they are. They got a fancy word for it, ‘stare decisis’. Uh huh.
“It’s a no go zone. There are constitutional gaps,” another said. Whoa!
This is the Rt. Hon. Beverly McLachlin’s last trial and I hoped she wasn’t getting too freaked out. I don’t know if she will be entertained by singing but there will be a lot of dancing on historical shadows.
There was an endless procession of attorney general reps defending S-121. Let me re-phrase that. There was an endless procession of all male attorney general reps defending S-121. Just sayin, that’s what I saw.
The BC AG rep discussed discrimination on province of origin, parliamentary sovereignty, historical disadvantage and use of intentional language.
I was looking for Sherman and Mr. Peabody to swing me back 150 years to when big shot Canadian provinces were all on the east coast feeling the hot breath of field trained Americans and their Fenian cousins. No one wants to touch on that. The only headline back then was, the Fenians were involved in a huge conspiracy to occupy Canada and our angry American cousins were armed to the teeth. We had a lot of fish and wood and I guess S-121.
The PEI AG rep, discussed how 121 incidentally harms trade, restricts goods and discriminates against provinces. He felt that 121 was valid but inconsistent.
What is the primary purpose of the law? He also added the explosion (talk about burying the lead), “The historical record is incomplete. Many of the documents have gone missing. It was crafted for the Dominion of Canada in 1867 and ignores the evolution of trade.” So, we’re going to take a Plato’s Cave approach, perhaps. We don’t have a super hero archivist? Now how do we figure out the context? Who needs a bong hit now?
“The framers did not agree on meaning and hid their ignorance.” Who said that? I think he got beat up later, not sure.
Photo of Derek From
“It’s fascinating to see so many Attorney Generals here to fight against the little guy. A typical Canadian is being punished for being a good shopper, said Derek From of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, who was in the audience.
Jack Lloyd “It’s a David and Goliath cast. Producers of great wealth on one side and takers on the other. Justice sees problems with S-121. We’re only asking for the moon. The notion that the LCBO having a monopoly on marijuana becomes dubious and questionable. We heard from appellants today. Tomorrow it will be the respondents. The Justices’ are being asked to change a fundamental constitutional act.”
What is the intent and effect of the law?
The AG rep from Alberta was so confident that Alberta’s liquor laws were the bees-knees that Justice had to clarify whether he wanted that enshrined in the Charter, which brought some chuckles from the maddening crowd.
From the cheap seats the scent and smoke from The Supremes put out vibrations of being unconvinced. I saw a head shake and another frown, no names.
What is the purpose of the law and what is the effect of the law? Those are two different questions. Does it give everyone equitable access and opportunity? Does it? How does it effect culturally sensitive industries? Does it sweep in or sweep out protectionist measures?
At what point are regulations punitive? Are you kidding me?
Will courts prevent easy cross border access?
After listening to the Provincial AG reps, some of whom normally argued in Petticoat Junction and none of which ever worked a Stratford stage, only one stood out. The AG rep from Nunavut. He pointed out that, “Alcohol is not a matter of trade. We have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. We have a suicide rate 9 times greater than south Canada. The boot-legger has three times more sales than the liquor store. The regulation of current intoxicants, and more to come-, requires public consultation. The territories have special power regarding alcohol rules.”
So, this guy was the only one who had a point that wasn’t based on incredible greed or the deliberate misinterpretation of history. Good call.
This case is about differential illegitimate opportunity and 150 years of it is under pressure, Cloward and Ohlin would be delighted.
Thanks to articles by Natasha Novac and Dan Cole