(reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org)
September 10, 1998, Vancouver, British Columbia: A provincial court judge in Vancouver recently ruled that a patient's medical need for marijuana shielded him from criminal drug charges.
"This case is significant because a judge, not known to be lenient in this Province, was nevertheless persuaded that it was... not contrary to the public interest to grant [the defendant] a conditional discharge" for possessing marijuana, said NORML Legal Committee member John Conroy, who argued the case. The judge was clearly influenced by the "nature of the defendant's motives, namely self medication, and the absence of any harm to others by his conduct," he said.
Defendant Stanley Czolowski, who uses marijuana medicinally to treat glaucoma and nausea, faced charges of cultivating marijuana and possessing the drug for the purpose of supplying a local medical marijuana dispensary. The Crown dropped the trafficking charge in exchange for a guilty plea to the cultivation charge. Judge Jane Godfrey exercised judicial discretion when sentencing Czolowski and gave the defendant only one year probation. Godfrey based the mitigated sentence on the fact that Czolowski grew marijuana solely for medical purposes.
"I have heard from the accused and I have read the material that [details] what [the defendant's] daily existence is like, and I have no difficulty whatsoever in understanding his personal motivation and I have extreme sympathy for his personal situation," Judge Godfrey said. "I have considered the facts before me and ... am satisfied it's not contrary to the public interest ... to grant [the defendant] a discharge."
Czolowski will not have a criminal record if he successfully completes his probation. This decision is the latest in a series of recent Canadian court rulings distinguishing medical marijuana users from other criminal offenders.