Pot Ban is Constitutional, Supreme Court Rules

Pot Ban is Constitutional, Supreme Court Rules
Posted by CN Staff on December 23, 2003 at 09:21:21 PT
By Kirk Makin, Globe and Mail Update 
Source: Globe and Mail 
The health risks of marijuana are “neither insignificant nor trivial,” the Supreme Court of Canada said Tuesday, upholding laws against pot possession.A 6-3 majority said marijuana is capable of altering a user's behaviour to a point where it “creates a potential harm to others when the user engages in driving, flying and other activities involving complex machinery.”
Chronic users may also bring serious health problems upon themselves, Mr. Justice Ian Binnie and Mr. Justice Charles Gonthier wrote for the majority.“Vulnerable groups are at particular risk, including adolescents with a history of poor school performance, pregnant women and persons with pre-existing conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, schizophrenia or other drug dependencies,” they specified. The majority said there is nothing unconstitutional about the government choosing to criminalize marijuana based on public health concerns even as it turns a blind eye to the greater dangers associated with alcohol or tobacco use.However, the dissenting judges – Madam Justice Louise Arbour, Mr. Justice Louis LeBel and Madam Justice Marie Deschamps – did not accept government arguments based on health concerns. They said the government failed to prove that the risks of marijuana use are serious and warrant the use of criminal sanctions.“The state cannot prevent the general population, under threat of imprisonment, from engaging in conduct that is harmless to them, on the basis that other, more vulnerable persons may harm themselves if they engage in it, particularly if one accepts that imprisonment would be inappropriate for the targeted vulnerable groups,” Judge Arbour said.The appeals – the first Charter test that the marijuana laws have faced at the Supreme Court – involved three men convicted of marijuana offences. In a joint attack, they asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional because the drug is harmless. An estimated 100,000 Canadians use the drug daily.The status of the law remains only slightly less confusing in the wake of the ruling. Against a backdrop of court challenges involving medicinal and recreational pot use, the federal government has moved gingerly to reduce or drop penalties.Alan Young, a lawyer who argued for the appellants, said the ruling was disappointing but not entirely surprising.“I didn't expect the Supreme Court to change the legal landscape overnight,” he said in an interview. However, Professor Young, of York University's Osgoode Hall law school, said it is unfortunate that the ruling takes pressure off the government to move quickly to decriminalize marijuana possession.Last week, Prime Minister Paul Martin intimated he will reintroduce a bill proposed by Jean Chrétien that would wipe out criminal penalties for those caught with small amounts of marijuana. The proposed bill would have made possession of less than 15 grams of pot a minor offence punishable by fines of $100 to $400. The bill – which would also have maintained or increased stiff penalties for large-scale growers and traffickers – died when Parliament was shut down last month to give Mr. Martin a fresh start in January.Conservative-minded critics of the plan argued that 15 grams was too much to be considered casual use. They said it would be impossible for police to assess how high a driver was, and that biker gangs and other criminals would thrive under the new rules.In giving a modest endorsement to decriminalization, Mr. Martin said it would have to involve “very, very, very small amounts.” He said he support a parliamentary committee considering the reduction of the original 15-gram proposal.The Supreme Court majority said Tuesday that the constitutional guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person is an intensely important value which “touches the core of what it means to be an autonomous human being blessed with dignity and independence in matters that can properly be characterized as fundamentally or inherently personal.“This does not include smoking marijuana for recreation,” it said flatly.The majority was also unimpressed by arguments that the possibility of a jail sentence for marijuana possession amounts to unconstitutional overkill.Most offenders are granted discharges or conditional sentences, especially where the amount is small and clearly intended for recreational use, the majority said. They said that if a particular judge imposes goes overboard in imposing a stringent sentence, it can be appealed and reversed.In a separate judgment, the court upheld a federal law prohibiting possession of marijuana for trafficking.The appellants – David Malmo-Levine, Victor Caine and Christopher Clay – challenged the government to show serious harm to the health of marijuana users in order to justify a law that deprives offenders of their liberty. They stressed that marijuana is a unique case, since a host of doctors and government-appointed inquiries have concluded that the drug is relatively safe. Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)Author:  Kirk Makin, Globe and Mail Update Published: December 23, 2003 Copyright: 2003 The Globe and Mail CompanyContact: letters globeandmail.caWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Laws Don't Breach Charter: Supreme Court Court Upholds Marijuana Law Banning Possession Does Not Violate Charter
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Comment #16 posted by jose melendez on December 23, 2003 at 13:57:40 PT
technology will expose liars and frauds
Lenny Bruce was pardoned today, albeit posthumously. Apparently, Bruce, a comic who was tried famously for 'word crimes', SURREPTITIOUSLY TAPED THE COURT PROCEEDINGS.Warning to drug warriors: Today, we do video. Eventually, the public will be shown your lies, live on TV. Bee-aatch.
Poison is legal, just not pot.
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Comment #15 posted by kaptinemo on December 23, 2003 at 13:35:17 PT:
Time to take stock: So what's changed?
Nothing. At least as far as Canada is concerned. People will still be toking. Stupid laws will still be broken. Needless crimes will *continue* to occur, not to mention the equally needless 'crimes' of giving harmless people criminal records.It would seem that Canadian SC judges are just as purblind as American ones. Or just as craven. Take your pick...Karma delayed is karma magnified.
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Comment #14 posted by lombar on December 23, 2003 at 12:30:55 PT
To be expected
“Vulnerable groups are at particular risk, including adolescents with a history of poor school performance, pregnant women and persons with pre-existing conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, schizophrenia or other drug dependencies,” they specified.Yes, this ruling will stop them from having access and facing persecution...there aint no justice in this world. I'd rather be a 'criminal' who knows freedom than a mindless misrable automoton whose existence is bounded by the fear of others. The only effect this ruling has on me is that my respect for the courts has sunk to an all time low. At least 3 judges have a clue...
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Comment #13 posted by goneposthole on December 23, 2003 at 12:23:26 PT
reverse electroplate the lies...
that the government has so blatantly enacted into 'law'. Let them become the gunk at the bottom of the electrolyte.Again, people have a natural affinity to alter their consciousness and are not going to view their existence any differently regardless of what the powers that were intend to do.The horse is out of the barn and running wild and free.might as well give up on the laws, they don't work and never will.Christmas times a comin'
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on December 23, 2003 at 12:07:39 PT
That was basically what the DJ was implying. 
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Comment #11 posted by cloud7 on December 23, 2003 at 12:01:24 PT
Somewhat understandable
I watched the video of David arguing his case and thought it was a well put together speech, but going into the Supreme Court high seems disrespectful to the seriousness of what goes on there. That was probably why he was upset. Whether this had any affect on the ruling is up for debate, but certainly his actions would not be looked upon favorably by the judges.
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Comment #10 posted by sukoi on December 23, 2003 at 11:51:48 PT
The opinion of one of the judges!
“From a dissent in the ruling by J. Deschamps 
he inclusion of cannabis in the schedule to the Narcotic Control Act infringes the accused's right to liberty without regard for the principles of fundamental justice. For the state to be able to justify limiting an individual's liberty, the legislation upon which it bases its actions must not be arbitrary. In this case, the legislation is arbitrary. First, it seems doubtful that it is appropriate to classify marihuana consumption as conduct giving rise to a legitimate use of the criminal law in light of the Charter, since, apart from the risks related to the operation of vehicles and the impact on public health care and social assistance systems, the moderate use of marihuana is on the whole harmless. Second, in view of the availability of more tailored methods, the choice of the criminal law for controlling conduct that causes little harm to moderate users or to control high-risk groups for whom the effectiveness of deterrence or correction is highly dubious is out of keeping with Canadian society's standards of justice. Third, the harm caused by prohibiting marihuana is fundamentally disproportionate to the problems that the state seeks to suppress. This harm far outweighs the benefits that the prohibition can bring.”
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on December 23, 2003 at 11:50:01 PT
The DJ Sounded Upset
I really was surprised he talked about the ruling but he was upset when he said what he did. He's a great DJ too.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on December 23, 2003 at 11:48:25 PT
I Found An Article Too
Now I remember.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on December 23, 2003 at 11:44:03 PT
Thanks. I didn't remember reading that but I could have forgotten.
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Comment #6 posted by cloud7 on December 23, 2003 at 11:40:58 PT
Yeah, I knew about that., a self-described justice and freedom activist, made his pitch amid an array of lawyers who offered more learned arguments for striking down the current prohibition on pot use as an infringement of the Charter of Rights. He later acknowledged, during a break in the hearing, that he'd taken some unusual steps to prepare for his day in court. "I took a couple of hits off some bubble hash," he said, explaining that the specially filtered cannabis resin helped him wake up and focus his mind. "I was happy, hungry and relaxed, but I was not impaired." 
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Comment #5 posted by sukoi on December 23, 2003 at 10:51:29 PT
A different poll at CTV
Here is a different poll than the one posted by CorvallisEric:Do you think possession of small amounts of marijuana should be:A criminal offence  32 %,
Decriminalized    36 %,
Legalized       32 %
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on December 23, 2003 at 10:48:08 PT:
Sorry, meant the NDP
But the sentiment is the same; a sleeping giant may have been awakened today...
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on December 23, 2003 at 10:46:38 PT:
Looks like a windfall for Jack Layton's NDP
Since the majority of the Canadian Supremes have shown themselves to be as stupid and hidebound as their Ami counterparts, it becomes imperative that local chapters of the LDP become staffed with cannabists; Canuck cannabists can't honestly expect either the Liberal or Tory Parties to pick up the baton, not after this debacle.The Canuck Supremes, by ducking this issue, have insured that it will rise even more precipitously the next time. The pressure is *not* off. On the contrary. The Canuck Supremes may have been listening to the bluster of Uncle, but the the Canadian electorate may yet have their say. And they may change the face of Canadian politics irrevocably.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on December 23, 2003 at 10:37:41 PT
Comment on Radio Station
We have a really good classic rock station and they commented on the ruling but he said something that surprised me. The DJ said that smoking a doobie right before seeing the judge didn't help anything.I didn't know that did anyone else?
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Comment #1 posted by drfistusa on December 23, 2003 at 10:18:12 PT
lies are used AGAIN and again...............
inspite of actual studies about driving on Cannabis, all the actual use studies of long term users in Jamaica show no health risk! It just one big lie all over again, they want to keep the lie alive, the irony is they act like they have it under control with laws, but we know people get it anyway, so we still have the risky use they claim. Isn't it risky to put someone in Jail with criminals and disease too!! Oh pilots might use it and then WHAT! Pilots have told me , it makes them more careful and follow procedures to the T. no imparement but not something pilots of commercial planes would do anyway. I wonder if it is un-constitutional for lies to be used for court decisions, I guess so!
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