Canadian Court Declares Medical Marijuana Prohibition Unconstitutional 12/12/97

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Tim Devlin, from Canada

A major victory in Canada for proponents of the medical use of marijuana. Laws, which prohibit medicinal use of the drug, have gone up in smoke.

Ontario Provincial Court Judge Patrick Sheppard has thrown out charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana layed against 42 year old Terry Parker. Judge Sheppard ruled the laws are unconstitutional in cases of medical necessity. The Canadian Charter of Human Rights includes the "right to access to a medical treatment for a condition representing a danger to life without fear of criminal sanction."

Parker was busted in 1996 after police discovered 73 plants in various stages of growth in the man's high-rise Toronto apartment. The body of evidence presented during the trial painted Parker as a tragically ill man forced to become a criminal to relieve epileptic seizures that have made his life a living hell.

The Torontonian has suffered from massive seizures since age four but conventional drugs that doctors have prescribed for the problem have serious side effects and do not relieve his condition. Parker discovered 20 years ago that smoking marijuana helps dramatically, and he has been using it to control his seizures ever since.

Judge Sheppard's decision on Wednesday clears the way for Ontario doctors to prescribe marijuana and allows patients to grow and possess it for their own medical use. Sheppard even ordered that police return three of the seized plants to Parker.

The Toronto man is ecstatic about the ruling. "I applaud the judge," Parker says. "It's pretty brave." He hopes the decision will force politicians to change the current laws. Parker was convicted of possession of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking and received a one year suspended sentence.

Dianne Riley, co-founder of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy Reform, a professor at the University of Toronto School of Medicine, was one of the many experts to testify for the defense. Asked for her reaction to the verdict, Dr. Riley told the Week Online, "It certainly sets a precedent for patients in Ontario. It's only a first step, of course, but given the backlog of medical marijuana cases pending throughout Canada, and Parliament's recent indication that they would be willing to re-examine this part of the drug law, I'd say that it is a very important decision."

Federal drug prosecutors have not indicated whether the constitutional ruling will be appealed to a higher court. So far the decision only applies to Ontario, but the precedent will undoubtedly be used in similar cases pending in other Provincial jurisdictions across Canada.

A recent poll indicates that 83 per cent of Canadians believe marijuana should be made legally available for health purposes.

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Issue #22, 12/12/97 Point and Click for Drug Policy Reform: Innovative web site lets you raise money for DRCNet | The Week Online Welcomes Tim Devlin: Veteran Canadian journalist and broadcaster adds his voice to the international beat | Canadian Court Declares Medical Marijuana Prohibition Unconstitutional | President's Advisory Council on AIDS Issues Tough Report: Sets Deadline for Lifting Ban on Needle Exchange Funding | American Medical Association: "Let Doctors, Patients Discuss Medical Marijuana" | Denver City Council Approves Needle Exchange... but state must act first to change law | George Soros Signs on to Indepent on Sunday's Cannabis Campaign... On the eve of an historic conference on the issue | Key West Medical Marijuana Club Founder Freed | Poll: Americans consider drug abuse "greatest threat facing kids | 022/france French Minister of Health Calls Medical Marijuana Legalization Obvious""" | Australian Mayors: Enforcement "Will Not Work:" A call to the national government to change strategy | Columbian President Press Secretary and a Reporter Kidnapped by Cartels: American Prohibition continues to undermine order | Link of the Week: Cast your vote and state your case in National Review's on-line medical marijuana survey | Editorial: The drums of reform are getting louder
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