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Canada: BC Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Marijuana Law

The British Columbia Supreme Court last Friday rejected a challenge to the country's law criminalizing marijuana possession based on deficiencies in Canada's medical marijuana regime. In cases earlier this decade, some Canadian courts had held that because Canada's drug law did not provide for the therapeutic use of cannabis, the law was invalid. But in part because of changes already made to the program, the BC Supreme Court wasn't buying that argument.

In response to those earlier rulings, the Canadian government created a limited medical marijuana program, whose utility was challenged in the present case. But Justice Austin Cullen ruled that even if Canada's medical marijuana program is less than ideal, that doesn't mean recreational pot smokers win a get out of jail free card.

Pot prohibition is constitutional only as long as medical need is accommodated, Cullen conceded. "There must be a constitutionally acceptable exemption from prosecution for seriously ill people with legitimate medical needs for the drug," he wrote in the opinion in Poelzer v. Her Majesty The Queen. But even if medical need is not adequately accommodated, as some courts have ruled, "it does not follow that the prohibition on possession of marijuana is of no force and effect," Cullen held. Any remedy should be "more specifically targeted to the constitutional shortcomings" in the medical marijuana program, not an excuse for marijuana users to avoid prosecution.

Ryan Poelzer was arrested in May 2007 for smoking a joint aboard a ferry pulling into Langdale, BC. Police searched him as he disembarked and found about five ounces of marijuana and a quarter-ounce of hashish. He was charged with marijuana possession, convicted, and handed six month's probation.

With the aid of attorney Kirk Tousaw, Poelzer appealed, arguing that defects in the medical marijuana law rendered marijuana prohibition invalid and, alternately, that conflicting court rulings had left the legal situation so muddied that prosecutions should be considered an abuse of process. But while provincial courts in Ontario had held the marijuana law invalid because of the medical marijuana problem, neither the federal nor the BC courts had.

"In British Columbia, there is no binding authority that [the marijuana law] is of no force and effect in the absence of a constitutionally acceptable exemption for medical marijuana users," Cullen ruled. To rule otherwise "would be to fashion or provide a remedy that in the words of the Ontario Court of Appeal would be 'overly broad and inadequately tailored to the constitutional deficiencies in the [medical program].'"

Looks like it's back to the drawing board for Canada's legalizers, at least on the West Coast.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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stoner fluffs his lines

a guy gets busted smoking a joint, and found with his backpack is full of pot- and so he uses medical marijuana laws as a defense?

Come off it.. and you guys think he is being oppressed? he's an asshole

while you are overgrowing the government, maybe grow up yourselves


The law, in this issue, is an ass!

A reply to Mr. Mous

'Anonymous' - a name that certainly inspires courage - should stay in the shallow end of the pool if that is the best contribution he can make to the discussion. In November of '08, two months to the day before Mr. Mous wrote his insight I was bumped from surgery intended to remove what proved later to be a malignant tumour from my lung. The reason for the delay was lack of beds for recovery. There were enough beds, there weren't enough nurses. I couldn't help wonder if that operation would have gone through on schedule if the nurses had the money the cops do to pursue this futile prohibition.
Any argument that can be put before the courts that may put a stop to this foolishness is valid. An 'overgrown' govt is one that continues to invest in policies that only contribute to the well being of those carrying them out, not the general well being of society. How many of Mr. Anonymous' relatives & friends, maybe even himself, are going to be pensioned off to their cottage by virtue of a career enforcing, prosecuting and supervising these so called "assholes"?


JUST LEGALIZE IT, IT WONT KILL YOU, it has never killed anyone

or is that theory to hard for a government to understand...

everyone knows the basic facts, drinking and smoking tobacco is far more dangerous than toking on a bong with weed in it.

i just cant understand why it is not legal :( :( :( :( :(


16.6 percent of canadians smoke marijuana. the facts sit right there infront of their eyes and they cant just tell us that the americans wont let them because they are our " number 1" trader, i myself was charged with posetion last night for 55 dollars worth of pot and hash, that in BC is 3.5 grams of pot and 3.5 grams of has. so instead of doing was police and governent officials busting everyday tax paying people. maybe we could get rid of the gangs in our city's, the hard drug problems in our city's. do u see children in high school throwing their lives away for a doobie? maybe some, but i can garintee u that their arnt as many as the kids that are influenced by harder drugs.


Lol in BC 3.5 grams of weed is 35$ alone, and depending on the grade of hash it is going to be a minimum of 15$ a gram, so you either bought shake, or you're just stupid.


The Government are too stubborn to admit that they have been procrastinating and telling lies about marijuana. For the better of our people, legalize it and do everybody a favor.

Why not eh? it wont kill you.


fck the police!!

fck the police!!

hey i live in australia and

hey i live in australia and these marijuana laws here are fucked, because someone overdosed on ecstacy they harshened the penalties for weed, we dont even hav it medically. i suffer from ptsd and marijuana is the only thing that helps without it i cant sleep, i get horrific flashbacks and nightmares and the psychiatrist says to me i can get you on these prescription drugs to help you, they are complete bullshit stuff they kill people and make you into a zombie (not literally but you know wat i meen) it doesnt hurt anyone just fucken legalize it so you can help the people that need it most.

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