Prosecutors Pass Pot Issue Along To Ottawa 

Prosecutors Pass Pot Issue Along To Ottawa 
Posted by CN Staff on November 26, 2003 at 06:38:45 PT
By Sherri Borden, Court Reporter
Source: Halifax Herald 
An appeal of a Nova Scotia judge's decision that questioned the validity of charging someone for possessing under 30 grams of marijuana has gone to pot. Instead, the federal Justice Department has decided to let Parliament handle the issue. David Schermbrucker, a federal prosecutor in Halifax, was instructed Monday afternoon that the department no longer wishes to pursue appeals in five Dartmouth pot possession cases. The appeals were to be heard Tuesday at the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
"I think the why is a political matter and it goes right up to the highest level of government," Mr. Schermbrucker told reporters outside court. "I'm just a lawyer down here carrying out instructions. A decision was made, as I said earlier the marijuana laws are an issue of national importance to all Canadians. "So I think the issue is taken very seriously." Meanwhile, local police continue to charge people with possessing small amounts of the drug. "We're still working under the existing laws, it's business as usual for us," spokesman Sgt. Don Spicer of Halifax Regional Police said Tuesday. It's unfortunate that the Crown couldn't make a decision to abandon the appeal until the last minute, but it could have been worse, Mr. Schermbrucker said. "It could have been that we had argued the appeal and left it with the court and government had made a decision while the court was under reserve." Canada's proposed bill that would decriminalize marijuana for small-time users caught with less than 15 grams and fine them $100 to $400 technically died when Parliament shut down this month. The bill is expected to be reintroduced later. In early October, the Ontario Court of Appeal struck down parts of the federal government's medical marijuana access program, thereby making the program - in the court's eyes - constitutionally valid. "As a result, in Ontario the law is: it's an offence to possess marijuana (but) if you are somebody who has demonstrated medical need to have access to marijuana, you should be able to get it," Mr. Schermbrucker said. "I think a judge in this province could well look at that judgment from Ontario and say: that's persuasive, that's going to be the law here." In March in Dartmouth provincial court, Judge Flora Buchan stayed a possession charge against Paula Clarke of Minesville, Halifax County. Judge Buchan followed the lead of judges in Ontario and Prince Edward Island who had granted similar stays, arguing the country's marijuana laws are unclear. In her decision, Judge Buchan questioned whether it is an abuse of the court process to permit the federal Crown to prosecute drug matters that had been stayed in three provinces. She subsequently stayed at least five similar cases - including one the Crown was going to send to an adult diversion program. Note: Crown abandons appeals of five possession cases slated for TuesdaySource: Halifax Herald (CN NS)Author:  Sherri Borden, Court ReporterPublished: Wednesday, November 26, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Halifax Herald LimitedContact: letters herald.ns.caWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Crown To Appeal Nova Scotia Ruling Judge Stays Pot Case
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