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Pot laws a bad trip for MS sufferer

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Amazing, strange and rare things took place in room 504 at the Court of
Queen's Bench yesterday.

The case has to do with Grant Krieger, Calgary's foremost cannabis crusader,
who has bankrupted his family in his quest to provide medicinal marijuana to
sick and dying Canadians.

Krieger, who has suffered from Multiple Sclerosis since 1973 and uses only
pot and a healthy diet to keep himself walking, readily admits that he had
(and has) a grow operation and, as such, he broke the law back in 1999.

As his lawyer Adriano Iovinelli told the jury of five men and seven women,
"some people would say that it's insignificant WHY he broke the law.

"I don't believe it's insignificant to help people in need," added
Iovinelli. "I don't believe it's insignificant to alleviate the suffering of
people living with AIDS and cancer and ALS."

As if to back up his case, at least three people in wheelchairs -- all of
them MS sufferers -- along with 15 other sick and dying pot users bore
silent witness in the courtroom to their friend, Grant Krieger's vital role
in their improved quality of life, as tragic and painful as those lives are.

Ultimately, Iovinelli said, "it's not insignificant for people to have
compassion for one another."

Clearly, the jury agreed, or at least two members of it did.

After Iovinelli's moving closing statement to the jury, Court of Queen's
Bench Justice Paul Chrumka did something most attorneys I spoke with
yesterday agreed was incredibly rare.

He told the jury they MUST convict Krieger.

This is exactly what Justice Chrumka told the jury: "I ask you to retire to
the jury room to consider what I have said. Appoint a foreperson and return
with a verdict of guilty."

But this jury -- and God bless them for this -- were defiant, for a while
anyway, of Chrumka and his learned legal opinion.

Instead, they were deferent to the belief -- agreed to by Canada's Senate
and several courts across the land -- that the law is an ass and an
"absurdity", at least when it comes to the gaping hole that allows sick
Canadians to use marijuana as a medicine but gives them little legal
recourse in how to obtain it.

The decision that many expected would take the jury five minutes, in light
of the judge's order, took almost 10 hours. The jury started deliberating at
10:37 a.m. and didn't come back with their reluctant guilty verdict until
8:15 p.m.

Earlier, at 5:30 p.m. the jury had a question for the judge. Two jurors
wanted to know if they could be excused from jury duty.

Eventually these two extremely straight-laced looking jurors -- one a 50'ish
woman and one a middle-aged man -- were brought before the judge and
explained that their consciences were troubling them.

"I believe that I could not live with myself if I was part of the conviction
of this man," said the burly, bearded male juror, who wept silently during
his statement.

"When I look at this case and all the facts presented, I think I understand
the legal parameters... but I feel this man is not a guilty man."

At that, Justice Chrumka was clearly frustrated.

When the juror went back into the deliberating room, Chrumka's face was
flushed and his tone edgy.

"The jury has to bring in the verdict that I ordered them to bring,"
declared Chrumka, to Iovinelli and Crown prosecutor Scott Couper.

Chrumka believed that by disallowing the "defence of necessity," the jury
would blindly and quickly follow the jumble of letters that make up the law.

But the two struggling jurors obviously care more about the spirit of the
law than the letter of the law. These jurors, for 10 hours anyway, cared
more about justice than legality.

It was a beautiful sight to behold, it truly was. Yes, it's true that
Krieger was found guilty. But Justice Chrumka imposed no fine, no jail time
and Krieger even gets back his scales and grow light. That too is a powerful

It's also clear that had Chrumka not ordered the jury members to find
Krieger guilty, they would have acquitted him. Too bad they didn't have the
courage to kick this bad ass law out of court. Too bad they didn't have the
courage of Krieger.

Pubdate: Thursday, December 4, 2003
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Contact: cal-letters@calgarysun.com
Website: Under Construction fyicalgary.com
Author: Licia Corbella