SUMMERSIDE - Borden-Carleton Police Chief Jamie Fox is urging the Crown to
appeal Friday's decision in provincial court here to stay a charge of
possession against a 19-year-old.

In an 11-page decision, Judge Ralph C. Thompson stayed the charge against
the teenager who had been arrested for possessing 30 grams or less of
marijuana last fall.

Thompson based his decision on an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling known as
the Parker decision that effectively struck down the law that prohibits
simple possession.

In July 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal said the possession of marijuana
charge under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act violated the rights of
Terry Parker by preventing him from legally possessing marijuana for medical
reasons. The court gave Parliament one year to revamp its law.

On Jan. 2, 2003, the Ontario court threw out marijuana possession charges
against a 16-year-old because the federal government had not dealt with the
Parker ruling.

Thompson said since the lower Ontario courts are bound by the Parker
decision, 12 million Ontario residents presently have immunity from
prosecution for simple possession of marijuana.

He said the Parker decision hasn't been appealed and recent cases in Ontario
fall into line with its ruling.

Thompson ruled that law should be uniform across the country and proceeding
in this case with the possession of marijuana charge in an Island court
would be unfair when similar charges have not proceeded in Ontario.

"If this prosecution is permitted to continue, in effect it would be
tantamount to a ruling that more than one-third of the population of Canada
is immune from prosecution while the residents or Prince Edward Island are
not," Thompson stated in his decision.

"All residents of Canada, wherever they are situated, are entitled, in
fairness, to expect a uniformity of approach from the federal Crown,
wherever it performs its prosecutorial function.

"Until such time as the law is changed by Parliament, or the higher courts
provide a ruling which will enable such approach, this charge involving the
simple possession of marijuana will not proceed in this court."

In a statement released Monday morning, Fox said the recent court decision
is wrong and should be appealed immediately.

"This matter is no different than the provincial government making
allowances for some people who have a medical condition under the Highway
Traffic Act regarding the wearing of seat-belts," he said.

"In this province, the law states that all people when operating and being a
passenger in a motor vehicle must wear a seat-belt."

The police chief said some people are, however, exempt from wearing a
seat-belt due to a medical condition which is backed by a qualified doctor.

He said the Criminal Code of Canada states that possession of cannabis is
illegal, although some individuals are allowed to possess small quantities
if authorized by government due to medical reasons.

Fox said despite Friday's ruling, his department will continue to lay
charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for marijuana
possession because it is still a charge set out in the act.

Fox added he has spoken with justice officials who are tasked with
prosecuting federal matters all of whom said nothing has changed.

Fox said that due to Friday's ruling, any narcotic matter that comes across
his agency will be looked at more closely to see if the evidence supports a
charge for possession for the purpose of trafficking, instead of officers
just going with a charge of simple possession.

"This is an important health issue and further involves basic public
safety," the police chief said.

"The smoking of any substance is harmful to our health. The smoking of
cannabis is 500 times worse. Drinking and driving has been proven to kill
innocent people. The smoking of cannabis also affects the mind and the
reactions of people. Now, put this person behind the wheel of car, shake the
dice and let's see what happens."

Fox said he believes this issue has become a political one.

"And we are forgetting about the rights of the people to live in a safe
environment," he said.

"Drugs, which includes cannabis, harm society and that has been proven by
medical professionals who are also supported by Health and Welfare Canada."

Summerside Deputy Police Chief David Griffin said his department will also
continue to lay possession charges under the law and let the courts decide
what happens.


Pubdate: Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Source: Guardian, The (CN PI)
Contact: letters@theguardian.pe.ca
Website: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/
Author: Mike Carson