Canadian Court Declines to Declare Marijuana Prohibition Unconstitutional
Last April, DRCNet distributed a bulletin encouraging supporters of drug policy reform to support the efforts of Hemp Nation proprietor Chris Clay in bringing a constitutional challenge to Canada's drug laws. (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1997/4-10-1.html) The eagerly-awaited decision was handed down on Thursday, August 14 by the Ontario Court, General Division. While Judge McCart seemed to doubt the wisdom of marijuana prohibition, he ruled that it was not a violation of the Canadian Constitution, the reason being that while recreational use of marijuana is not particularly harmful, to be unconstitutional it would have to be proven totally harmless.
Witnesses for the Defendants (Chris Clay and Jordan Prentice) included internationally recognized experts on marijuana Dr. Lester Grinspoon of the Harvard Medical School and Dr. John P. Morgan of the City University of New York Medical School (and co-author of the newly released book Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts, featured in section five). The decision included a brief history of marijuana prohibition in Canada, as well as an overview of the state of marijuana law internationally.
The decision noted that most of the western world, apart from North America, was moving toward less punitive policies and stated, "The national governments of Canada and the United States appear to be somewhat out of step with the rest of the western world."
The crux of the 27-page decision, however, was Judge McCart's unwillingness to tread on what he believes is legislative ground. He wrote, "All of the so-called decriminalization initiatives in the Netherlands, etc. were legislative initiatives, not court imposed. The changes requested by the applicants regarding simple possession and small-scale cultivation would constitute a completely different approach to the question and would in my view amount to an unwarranted intrusion into the legislative domain."
In closing, the judge noted the recent move by the Canadian Parliament toward more lenient sanctions for possession and added, "[p]erhaps, some day, they may adopt some of the measures which exist, for example, in Australia and which I do not believe would meet with much objection from an informed public."
The next stage is for the challenge to go to the Ontario Court of Appeals. For further information, visit the Hemp Nation web site at http://www.hempnation.com, or keep watching The Week Online.
British Medical Journal Editorial
New British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called for the creation of a Drug Czar's office to coordinate national drug policy. In response, The British Medical Journal's August 9 issue features an editorial which says, in part, "The 'war' rhetoric is particularly dangerous. It is therefore disappointing that the new post draws its 'czar' title from the United States – a strange role model to select considering its vastly greater prevalence of drug misuse."
Written by John Strang, Director of the National Addiction Centre in London, the editorial states that, thus far, "In the U.K., pragma has trumped dogma" on the drug issue. The editorial also warns that "Crime dominated posturing would lead to a damaging dissociation between the public appeal of the policy and actual evidence of effectiveness." THE WEEK ONLINE will let you know as soon as this important editorial becomes available on the web.
Clinton Administration Meets to Discuss Crime in the Hemisphere
Reuters reports that President Clinton met with top U.S. law enforcement and drug policy officials to discuss ways to deal with crime in the hemisphere. An unnamed official said that the way to control crime is to "provide training and technical assistance and agree on basic frameworks to attack criminals, including extradition."