90 Minutes, 22 Dismissals

The string of wide grins leaving Ontario Court No. 10 Monday afternoon
hinted at the historic event inside as Justice Micheline Rawlins
dismissed 22 consecutive cases of marijuana possession.

It was the largest wholesale dismissal of unrelated marijuana charges
in the province since judges started tossing out cases of possession
under 30 grams.

Mondays are drug-offence days in Windsor remand court, which hears
pleas and sets trial dates.

But because several lawyers planned to argue that their clients' cases
should be dropped, which is normally beyond the purview of remand
court, Rawlins agreed to hear them.

Defence lawyer Brian McAllister - who started the trend in January
when he convinced Ontario Court Justice Douglas Phillip to dismiss
marijuana-possession charges against his 17-year-old client - made
the initial argument Monday on behalf of another client.

He argued that since Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin two weeks ago
upheld the lower court ruling, possessing less than 30 grams of
marijuana is no longer illegal in Ontario.

The Crown tried to have the cases stayed until a new marijuana law can
be implemented in Ontario, but Rawlins agreed that possession under 30
grams is no longer illegal.

In about 90 minutes, Rawlins rushed through case after case,
repeatedly reading a statement which said that the cases are "lacking
an allegation of any offence known to law."

In some cases, the accused had their marijuana-possession charges
dismissed, but still face other types of charges. Most simply walked
free.

"I've never seen a parade of people walking out of court with such big
smiles on their faces like that before," said McAllister. "This is
exactly what should happen. There's no prohibition on simple
possession of marijuana in Ontario and therefore no offence."

McAllister predicted marijuana-possession charges will be dismissed en
masse until a new law is enacted.

"If a person is caught with, say, two joints, I don't think it's fair
to get a criminal record," said one smiling man who walked free Monday.

Jim Leising, director of federal prosecutions in Ontario for the
Department of Justice, confirmed Monday's proceedings were the first
time marijuana-possession charges have been dismissed in bulk and said
his office is working quickly to have a new drug law implemented.

"What's been happening elsewhere is the charges have either been
adjourned or stayed,"he said. "This is the first I've heard they're
just dismissed outright.


Pubdate: Tue, 03 Jun 2003
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Webpage: http://www.mapinc.org/cancom/6CFD7125-7804-4FFC-B8DB-F80A20E4C556
Copyright: The Windsor Star 2003
Contact: letters@win.southam.ca
Website: http://www.canada.com/windsor/