Newfoundlanders could be forgiven for wondering what they should do with
their lighters this week.

Early on, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association held a news
conference to urge the government to ban smoking in all public places,
citing the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Then a day or so later, marijuana activist Marc Emery told The Telegram
he'll be in St. John's July 26, when he'll light up a very public joint on
the steps of Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) headquarters.

It's part of his cross-Canada tour of cop shops, designed to bring attention
to this country's pot laws, or lack of them, depending on which province you
happen to be in when you flick your Bic.

Of course, Emery and the medical association aren't really talking about the
same issues, but it made for an interesting juxtaposition - those pushing
government to ban the butt while another fights for the right to light up,
albeit a smoke of a different sort.

And interesting juxtapositions surround marijuana right now, as Emery's tour
illustrates. He's been arrested for lighting up a joint on police station
steps in Winnipeg and Regina, but suffered no consequences - at least not of
a legal nature - from doing the same in Toronto.

The Toronto cops' live-and-let-draw attitude reflects the new reality in
Ontario where provincial court judges have declared Canada's pot laws
invalid numerous times.

First came a 2000 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that found the law
prohibiting marijuana was a violation of the Charter since it denied
individuals who used pot for medicinal purposes a safe and legal way to
obtain it. It gave the federal government a year to enact changes to the law
to allow for legal distribution to those entitled to grass for medical
reasons.

When government failed to pass the changes through Parliament, subsequent
Ontario rulings found the law unconstitutional and have dismissed cases,
leaving some Ontario police chiefs to say they are no longer certain of the
drug's status in law, and have told officers to stop making busts for
possession under 30 grams.

With the law in limbo, officers simply seize the drugs and record details of
the seizure, keeping the information on file for possible future charges,
once the law is clarified.

The uncertainty has spread beyond the nation's heartland, with judges in
both Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island staying charges for simple
possession, pointing to the confusion over the law.

Has the confusion spread to this province?

Well, consider this: asked if the RNC would arrest Emery should he spark a
spliff on the station steps, Sgt. June Layden told The Telegram police
haven't decided: "We are evaluating what our choices will be, and we are
having discussions with justice officials and management to see what avenues
are available.

"We haven't made any final decisions."

For now, then, it seems the only one who knows what's going to happen is
Emery.

According to those who've tried the bud, he may find his perceptions
somewhat altered, his sense of time a bit distorted, his focus centred on
the unexpected - the colour of the sky, the texture of the bricks.

Others suggest he may become a bit confused. If that's the case, he'll have
plenty of company.


Pubdate: Fri, 18 Jul 2003
Source: Telegram, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2003 The Telegram
Contact: letters@thetelegram.com
Website: http://www.thetelegram.com/