WINDSOR -- Possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana is no longer against
the law in Ontario, a Windsor judge says in a ruling released yesterday
that compounds the chaos over Canada's pot laws.

Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin's decision has "effectively erased the
criminal prohibition on marijuana possession from the law books in
Ontario," said Brian McAllister, the Windsor lawyer who challenged the law
on behalf of a 17-year-old client.

Judge Rogin's decision is almost certainly to be followed by judges of
Ontario's lower court, where nearly all marijuana possession cases are decided.

"This decision is also likely to have significant repercussions on the
viability of marijuana prosecutions across the country," Mr. McAllister said.

Hundreds of marijuana possession cases in Ontario have been put on hold
pending Judge Rogin's ruling and the outcome of other cases currently
before the Supreme Court of Canada.

That shouldn't change until the Ontario Court of Appeal reviews Judge
Rogin's decision, said Jim Leising, the Justice Department official
responsible for drug prosecutions in Ontario.

"We certainly continue to maintain that possession of marijuana is
prohibited by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and we'll be moving
quite quickly to appeal this judgment," he said.

Mr. McAllister said police in Ontario should note Judge Rogin's judgment
and stop laying charges for marijuana possession.

"Otherwise, the police will be arresting people for an activity which is no
longer outlawed," he said.

Judge Rogin upheld Ontario Court Justice Douglas Phillip's decision to
quash a charge against a Kingsville youth for possessing less than 30 grams
of marijuana because the law is no longer valid.

The government needed to pass a new law prohibiting marijuana possession
after the current one was struck down by the Ontario Court of Appeal two
years ago, Judge Rogin agreed.

The appeal court ruled in favour of severe epileptic Terry Parker, of
Toronto, saying the law violated the constitutional rights of sick people
who used marijuana for medical reasons. It gave the government until July
31, 2001, to remedy the situation or the law would be invalid.

The government responded by passing the Marijuana Medical Access
Regulations, which were found to be unconstitutional by a Toronto judge in
another case involving Mr. Parker. That judge said the problem is there is
no legal supply of marijuana for sick people.

Meanwhile, the federal government is attempting to get new legislation
dealing with marijuana before Parliament by the end of the month.

It is proposing to make possessing 15 grams or less of marijuana a
non-criminal offence for which people could be fined as little as $100. The
relaxing of the pot possession laws would be accompanied by stiffer
penalties for drug traffickers and marijuana growers, as well as drug use
prevention, education and treatment strategies.

Pubdate: Sat, 17 May 2003
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Ellen van Wageningen