Today the Supreme Court of Canada announced its 6-3 majority decision upholding Canada's clearly unconstitutional marijuana laws - only one third of the 9 judges believed that banning such admittedly harmless behavior as possessing the flowers of one of humanity's plant allies does not violate our Charter of Rights and Freedoms - thus continuing this ridiculous, corrupt and destructive prohibition on an amazingly useful and beneficial plant.
I'm ashamed of my beloved country today - ashamed of our courts, our leaders and the voting public for allowing the perpetuation of this enormous hypocrisy which tears away our freedoms and so seriously damages our nation socially and politically.
I'm afraid of the pathetic message that this decision reinforces to the world about Canada. You'd have to be ignorant or uninformed to not realize that the cannabis prohibition issue is far greater than this one plant, is representative of our respect and regard, or lack thereof, for personal freedoms, laws that make sense, ancient wisdom and traditions, cultural diversity, natural resources, and perhaps even Canada's chance at a forward-thinking leadership role in the future of our planet.
I'm outraged on behalf of those who suffer under these moronic policies, especially the 60,000 Canadians who are charged with cannabis offences every year and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who use cannabis medicinally and are still considered criminals, prevented from accessing a safe and reliable supply.
Our irrational drug laws undeniably create or increase all of the societal ills we are led to believe they exist to prevent. This counter-productive prohibition breeds contempt for our leadership and legal system, creates a dangerous and lucrative black market, wastes an enormous amount of resources, confuses and entices our children. You'd have to be a fool, a corrupt and self-centered profiteering propagandist, or someone who's not researched the issue at all, to believe that the drug war does more good than harm.
Today our apparent inability to think for ourselves and to help lead the world in a more positive direction has been supported by our highest court.
To those who ignorantly believe that our future lies in following and sucking up to a handful of liars from our 'big brother' to the south no matter what the consequences, no matter what irrational and damaging policies they force upon us: SHAME ON YOU! You're helping to commit us to continued oppression, manipulation and subservience. Enjoy.
To everyone else: love your country, keep an eye on your government, stand up for your rights.
Peace and kind wishes.
This quote from Justice Deschamps is particularly noteworthy:
"Canadian society is changing. Its knowledge base is growing, and its morals are evolving. Even if it was once the case, and in my view it never was, the prohibition against cannabis is no longer defensible. My analysis leads me to conclude that the little harm caused by marihuana casts doubt on the appropriateness of state intervention in this case. When I weigh the prohibition against, first, other available methods for countering the harm that marihuana use presents and, second, the problems caused by marihuana use, I must conclude that the legislation is inconsistent with the constitutional guarantee in s. 7 of the Charter."
Justice Louise Arbour:
266 If there remained any doubt as to whether the harms associated with
marihuana use justified the state in using imprisonment as a sanction against its possession, this doubt disappears when the harms caused by the prohibition are put in the balance. The record shows and the trial judges found that the prohibition of simple possession of marihuana attempts to prevent a low quantum of harm to society at a very high cost. A "negligible" burden on the health care and welfare systems, coupled with the many significant negative effects of the prohibition, cannot be said to amount to more than little or no reasoned risk of harm to society. I thus conclude that s. 3(1) and (2) of the Narcotic Control Act, as it prohibits the possession of marihuana for personal use under threat of imprisonment, violates the right of the appellants to liberty in a manner that is not in accordance with the harm principle, a principle of fundamental justice, contrary to s. 7 of the Charter.
276 The constitutional questions in the Caine appeal should be answered
(1) Does prohibiting possession of Cannabis (marihuana) for personal use under s. 3(1) of the Narcotic Control Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. N-1, by reason of the inclusion of this substance in s. 3 of the Schedule to the Act (now s. 1, Schedule II, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, S.C. 1996, c. 19), infringe s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
(2)If the answer to Question 1 is in the affirmative, is the infringement justified under s. 1 of the Charter?
Justice Louis LeBel:
280 In my mind, it cannot be denied that marihuana can cause problems of varying nature and severity to some people or to groups of them. Nevertheless, the harm its consumption may cause seems rather mild on the evidence we have. In contrast, the harm and the problems connected with the form of criminalization chosen by Parliament seem plain and important. Few people appear to be jailed for simple possession but the law remains on the books. The reluctance to enforce it to the extent of actually jailing people for the offence of simple possession seems consistent with the perception that the law, as it stands, amounts to some sort of legislative overreach to the apprehended problems associated with marihuana consumption. Moreover, besides the availability of jail as a punishment, the enforcement of the law has tarred hundreds of thousands of Canadians with the stigma of a criminal record. They have had to bear the burden of the consequences of such criminal records as Arbour J. points out. The fundamental liberty interest has been infringed by the adoption and implementation of a legislative response which is disproportionate to the societal problems at issue. It is thus arbitrary and in breach of s. 7 of the Charter. For these reasons, I agree with Arbour J. that fundamental rights are at stake, that they were breached, and that this Court must intervene as part of its duty under the Constitution to uphold the fundamental principles of our constitutional order.
Justice Marie Deschamps:
284 I agree with the majority of this Court on the arguments relating to
the protection of lifestyle and the shifting purpose of the Act. I will limit my comments to the arguments concerning the harm principle and the arbitrary nature of the legislation. The latter argument leads me to conclude that the inclusion of cannabis in the schedule to the Narcotic Control Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. N--1 (rep. & repl. S.C. 1996, c. 19, s. 94) infringes the appellants' right to liberty.
289 The criminal law is one of the most aggressive weapons the state has
to enforce its dictates. This weapon must be wielded with great care. The courts must intervene when an enactment violates constitutional guarantees. More specifically, and without repeating the detailed comments of my colleagues, the courts must act when the right to liberty is infringed without regard for the principles of fundamental justice. In the present case, I believe Parliament has exercised its power arbitrarily.
290 When the state prohibits socially neutral conduct, that is, conduct
that causes no harm, that is not immoral and upon which there is no societal consensus as to its blameworthiness, it cannot do so without raising a problem of legitimacy and, consequently, losing credibility. Citizens become inclined not to take the criminal justice system seriously and lose confidence in the administration of justice. Judges become reluctant to impose the sanctions attached to such laws.
291 There are several basic tenets of criminal law that can be used
to measure the arbitrariness of a prohibition. I shall rely on three of these principles here: the need for the state to protect society from harm, the availability of tools other than criminal law that could adequately control the conduct and the proportionality of the measure to the problem in question.
293 As mentioned by the majority, the reasons for adding marihuana to
the schedule to the Narcotic Control Act are nebulous, at best. The historical background outlined by the trial judge in the case of the appellant Caine clearly shows that Parliament's decision was made at a time when a climate of irrational fear predominated, owing to a campaign led by Edmonton magistrate Emily Murphy, who claimed that marihuana caused users to lose their minds, along with all sense of moral responsibility, becoming maniacs capable of murder and many other acts of cruelty.
294 Fortunately, the consequences of marihuana use are nothing like
those described at that time. Although I do not accept the harm principle as an independent principle, I believe that the need for the state to protect society from harm plays an active role in any assessment of the arbitrariness of legislation.
295 The inherent risks of marihuana use, apart from those related to
the operation of vehicles and the impact on public health care and social assistance systems, affect only the users themselves. These risks can be situated on a spectrum, ranging from no risk for occasional users to more significant risks for frequent users and vulnerable groups. On the whole, with a few exceptions, moderate use of marihuana is harmless. Thus, it seems doubtful that it is appropriate to classify marihuana consumption as conduct giving rise to a legitimate use of the criminal law in light of the Charter.
297 The minimal harm caused by marihuana does not fit squarely
within the categories of conduct usually kept in check by the criminal law.
298 Only three groups are traditionally identified as requiring state
intervention for their protection: young persons, pregnant women and certain people with medical conditions. This line of reasoning does not have to be pushed very far before it becomes obvious that criminal law is not society's preferred means of controlling the conduct of these groups. The use of imprisonment and all the other aspects of the criminal justice system, including the imposition of a criminal record, to suppress conduct that causes little harm to moderate users or to control high-risk groups for whom the effectiveness of deterrence or correction is highly dubious and seems to me out of keeping with Canadian society's standards of justice.
299 This brings me to the third factor, proportionality. The harmful
effects of marihuana use have already been discussed and are highly debatable. The harm caused by its prohibition, however, is clear and significant. For the details, I refer back once again to the effects listed by Arbour J. (para. 200). A balancing of these two factors yields the result that the harm caused by prohibiting marihuana is fundamentally disproportionate to the problems created by its use that the state seeks to suppress.
301 The harm caused by using the criminal law to punish the simple use
of marihuana far outweighs the benefits that its prohibition can bring. LeBel J. notes that the fact that jail sentences are rarely imposed illustrates the perception of judges that imprisonment is not a sanction that befits the inherent dangers of using marihuana. In the case of the appellant Caine, Howard J. also observed that the prohibition had brought the law into disrepute in the eyes of over one million people. These are exactly the kinds of reactions that are indicative of the arbitrariness of the impugned provisions. As I have already mentioned, and as Howard J. observed, when the state prohibits socially neutral conduct, it exposes itself to the risk of eroding its credibility.
302 Canadian society is changing. Its knowledge base is growing, and its
morals are evolving. Even if it was once the case, and in my view it never was, the prohibition against cannabis is no longer defensible. My analysis leads me to conclude that the little harm caused by marihuana casts doubt on the appropriateness of state intervention in this case. When I weigh the prohibition against, first, other available methods for countering the harm that marihuana use presents and, second, the problems caused by marihuana use, I must conclude that the legislation is inconsistent with the constitutional guarantee in s. 7 of the Charter.
Canadian Legal Information Institute
Canada keeps marijuana possession illegal
Supreme Court ruling deals a blow to activists
The Associated Press
Dec. 23, 2003
TORONTO - Canada’s top court ruled Tuesday to keep marijuana possession illegal, dealing a blow to activists who had argued the drug causes no serious harm.
In a 6-3 decision spanning 400 pages, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that trafficking and possession, even in small amounts, would remain a criminal offense. The judgment prompted praise from law enforcement groups and disappointment from proponents of legalization.
“My huge patriotism may slowly be dissipating. I have a lot of faith in my country, in freedom and justice, but it doesn’t seem like we have a whole lot of that left,” said Dominic Kramer, a marijuana activist who runs a store that sells hemp products and paraphernalia in Toronto.
Tony Cannavino, president of the Canadian Police Association, welcomed the decision but expressed concern over a proposed bill by Prime Minister Paul Martin that would soften penalties for pot possession. He said marijuana growing seemed to be on the rise.
“We have more and more ‘grow ops’ across the country,” he told reporters in Ottawa. “You wouldn’t see that 10 years ago.”
Constitutional rights questioned
A key question in the Supreme Court decision was whether Parliament has the constitutional right to punish marijuana possession, given the lack of proven serious harms from its use.
The high court examined three cases involving two pot activists and one man who was caught smoking. All three failed to persuade lower courts that the pot law is unconstitutional.
Defendant David Malmo-Levine took a hit of hash last May before arguing his case in person at the high court while dressed head-to-toe in clothes made of hemp cloth. He once ran the Harm Reduction Club, a non-profit cooperative in Vancouver that offered advice on safe marijuana use while supplying it to some 1,800 members.
Another case centered on Christopher Clay, who ran the Hemp Nation in London, Ontario, a store he started with a government loan. He sold marijuana seeds and seedlings in a deliberate challenge to the law.
Last week Martin said he planned to reintroduce a bill, first proposed under former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, that would wipe out potential jail time and criminal records for those convicted of marijuana possession.
The bill did not legalize the drug, and maintained or increased already stiff penalties for large-scale growers and traffickers. It made possession of less than 15 grams of pot a minor offense punishable by fines of $100 to $400, much like traffic tickets.
Critics said 15 grams, the equivalent of roughly 15 to 20 joints, was too much to equate with casual use.
But the legislation died when Parliament adjourned last month to give Martin a fresh start in January.
Newshawk: Tim Meehan
Pubdate: Wed, 24 Dec 2003
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: The Hamilton Spectator 2003
Author: Meredith MacLeod
TOP COURT RULES MARIJUANA LAW IS CONSTITUTIONAL
As marijuana activists vow to keep fighting to make the country a more friendly place to smoke, yesterday's Supreme COurt decision may be just the impetus the federal government needs to quietly drop the political hot potato.
The country's highest court ruled 6-3 yesterday that it is constitutional to criminally charge and jail people for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Defence lawyers for three men charged with posession argued criminal penalties for minor drug offences are disproportionate and violate the guarantee of fundamental justice in [The] Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Supreme Court did not agree.
"We conclude that it is within Parliament's legislative jurisdiction to criminalize the posession of marijuana, should it choose to do so," said the judgement. But the court also ruled that it is within Parliament's power to change the law. The Chretien government had a bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of less than 15 grams but still crack down on growers and traffickers.
Those caught with small amounts of pot would face fines but no criminal record.
The bill died on the order paper, but Prime Minister Paul Martin has said he will re-introduce the legislation.
But the momentum to make that change may have burned out, said University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach.
"In the months to come it will be very interesting to see whether the proposal to decriminalize goes forward. This ruling only takes away the urgency. If the Supreme Court had decided the other way, it could have told Parliament it had to change the law right away or within six months."
Opposition to relaxing Canadian pot laws has come from police, addiction groups, conservative politicians and American legislators.
Roach said now that the matter is in the hands of elected politicians, it's up to the Canadian public to decide if criminal sanctions are the best way to deal with the estimated 2 1/2 million recreational pot users in this country. Health Canada on its website says 700 persons are currently allowed to possess marijuana for medical purposes.
Alison Myrden says without pot, her multiple sclerosis would be unbearable. "I don't think my friends who give me marijuana because they want to help me should get into trouble for it," said the Burlington woman. The government-sanctioned medicinal marijuana isn't strong enough to be effective for her, she says, leaving her "to beg for my medicine on the street. That's not acceptable."
But Myrden sees reason for hope in yesterday's court ruling. "One third if the Supreme Court found the laws unconstitutional. That's a major breakthrough. This is worldwide news." Local police praised the court ruling. "The Supreme Court made the right decision, now it's up to Parliament," said Hamilton Police Chief Brian Mullan.
Pubdate: Sat, 27 Dec 2003
Source: Abbotsford News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Hacker Press Ltd.
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mjcn.htm (Cannabis - Canada)
EXPECT WATERED-DOWN U.S. VERSION OF DECRIMINALIZATION
Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of the Supreme Court of Canada's 6-3 decision this week to uphold the laws prohibiting possession of marijuana is the reaction of John Walters, the United States' drug czar.
Walters was positively abuzz with excitement upon learning that Canada's top court had decided against ruling that the possession law was unconstitutional. This is, of course, not new.
When the federal Liberals had drafted a bill to decriminalize simple possession of pot, Martin Cauchon, then the justice minister, actually flew to Washington last spring to essentially obtain permission from U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to liberalize marijuana laws here.
That Cauchon presented the pot proposal to a foreign country before allowing Canada's own House of Commons to view it was astounding. That the issue didn't generate a wave of outrage among the public is even more appalling.
When Jean Chretien had introduced the original bill to decriminalize simple possession of pot - a bill that will be re-introduced next year in a much watered-down form - Walters and the Bush administration actually had the audacity to charge that Canada was the only country in the West to mishandle its drug policy.
Such a charge is laughable, when one considers how corrupt and inept the U.S. war on drugs really is: The CIA imported cocaine to sell on American street corners to raise money to fund the Contras in their guerrilla war against President Daniel Ortega's Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s. This is not some wild-eyed conspiracy theory. It is a documented fact presented in Senate hearings in Washington.
In its majority opinion, the Supreme Court of Canada wrote that "chronic ( marijuana ) users may suffer serious health problems. Vulnerable groups are at a particular risk . . ."
If health concerns are reason enough to continue to make criminals out of people who indulge in a joint or two, can we expect, then, a challenge to the current law that deems cigarettes, alcohol and sugar legal?
It is true that the courts exists to interpret, not make, law. And simple possession will probably be decriminalized sometime next year.
But the revamped bill, heavy on grow-ops and "repeat users," appears to be another example of capitulating to U.S. pressure to continue demonizing a drug that is no more harmful that many, many legal drugs.
NDP leader Jack Layton's words, spoken following Cauchon's astonishing visit to Washington, D.C. last spring, ring as true today: "There goes Canadian sovereignty up in smoke. Here's the American government advising on what Canadian policy will be before the House of Commons even has a look at it. It's quite astounding."
Pubdate: Wed, 24 Dec 2003
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2003 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
MARIJUANA POSSESSION REMAINS ILLEGAL, CANADA'S HIGHEST COURT RULES
TORONTO, Canada ( AP ) - Marijuana possession in Canada will remain illegal, the country's Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision yesterday, after three plaintiffs failed to convince the courts that laws banning the drug are unconstitutional.
The court's decision throws the issue back to Canada's federal government, which had been planning to change its marijuana laws.
Prime Minister Paul Martin is expected to reintroduce a bill, first proposed under former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, that would eliminate potential jail time and criminal records for those convicted of pot possession.
The bill would not legalise the drug, and would maintain or increase already stiff penalties for large-scale growers and traffickers. It would make possession of less than 15 grams ( about half an ounce ) of pot a minor offense punishable by fines of 100 Canadian dollars ( US$75 ) to C$400 ( US$300 ), much like traffic tickets.
The Supreme Court considered three cases involving two self-described marijuana activists and one man who was caught smoking marijuana. All three had failed to persuade lower courts that Canada's pot law is unconstitutional.
The judgment ignited reaction from all fronts of the country's ongoing marijuana debate.
"It's nice to see at least three of the Supreme Court justices have half a brain," said Dominic Kramer, a marijuana activist who runs a store selling hemp products and paraphernalia in Toronto. "My huge patriotism may slowly be dissipating. I have a lot of faith in my country, in freedom and justice, but it doesn't seem like we have a whole lot of that left."
Tony Cannavino, president of the Canadian Police Association, welcomed the decision cautiously but expressed concern over Martin's proposed bill.
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