Pot Possession Charges Stayed by Feds  

Pot Possession Charges Stayed by Feds  
Posted by CN Staff on December 10, 2003 at 13:20:09 PT
By Doug Brown, Herald-Tribune Staff
Source: Daily Herald-Tribune
Thousands of Canadians facing pot possession charges are getting an early Christmas present from the Canadian government: A stay of criminal proceedings. The Canadian Department of Justice said this week it would be staying all outstanding minor marijuana possession charges laid in Canada between July 31, 2001 and Oct. 7, 2003.
"The attorney general of Canada is staying marijuana possession charges across Canada," said Maureen McLellan, Justice Canada's prairies spokeswoman. About 4,000 files could be stayed as a result of the decision. Of those, 1,350 are from Alberta, added McLellan. Robert Wadey, federal Crown prosecutor for Grande Prairie, said less than 25 outstanding files in this region fall into the two-year window.The Justice Canada decision is the direct result of an Ontario appeals court ruling in 2000 that the law making possession of small amounts of weed illegal was unconstitutional because it didn't contain an exemption for valid medical use. The government later issued regulations for medical marijuana use, but the court ruling effectively meant anyone in possession of a small amount of marijuana in Ontario during the period of July 31 to Oct. 7, 2003, was not breaking the law.Justice Canada decided not to appeal the Ontario decision, and in order to keep federal prosecution consistent across the country, ordered that all other charges laid in that period be stayed, said McLellan."We want to take a position across Canada that is consistent with the position we've taken in Ontario... and to ensure fair and equitable treatment."Anyone who was convicted on a marijuana possession charge laid during that time can seek an appeal, said McLellan, and the department's decision on the charges would be "taken into account."For the past month, federal prosecutors across were under orders to allow anyone charged during the window to put off entering their plea until after Justice Canada decided how to deal with the charges.McLellan was quick to point out, however, that possession of marijuana without a valid medical exemption is still considered illegal in Canada, and charges laid before or after Oct. 7 will be prosecuted normally.Simple possession involves amounts of less than 30 grams of marijuana, or up to one gram of marijuana resin.In Grande Prairie, the average sentence for first-time simple possession offenders is a fine ranging from $100-$200, depending on the presiding judge. A bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession is being considered by the federal Liberals. The legislation would make marijuana possession an offence similar to a speeding ticket, with a fine but no criminal record. Source: Daily Herald-Tribune, The (CN AB)Author: Doug Brown, Herald-Tribune StaffPublished: December 10, 2003 Copyright: 2003 The Daily Herald-TribuneContact: dht bowesnet.comWebsite: CannabisNews Canada Archives 
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