Canada Supreme Court Upholds Legal Ban on Pot Use

Canada Supreme Court Upholds Legal Ban on Pot Use
Posted by CN Staff on December 23, 2003 at 12:24:18 PT
By David Ljunggren
Source: Reuters 
Ottawa -- Canada's Supreme Court upheld on Tuesday laws banning the use of marijuana -- just months before Ottawa is expected to introduce legislation scrapping those very same laws.Three men convicted of possessing pot had appealed their cases all the way to the nation's top court, saying the threat of imprisonment for using the drug in private was excessive and breached their constitutional rights to life and liberty.
But the court, in a 6-3 split decision, said laws banning the possession and trafficking of pot were reasonable because the drug was widely considered to be dangerous."It cannot be said that the prohibition on marijuana possession is arbitrary or irrational, although the wisdom of the prohibition and its related penalties is always open to reconsideration by Parliament itself," it said in the ruling."There is no free-standing constitutional right to smoke pot for recreational purposes."Prime Minister Paul Martin said when Parliament restarted in February, the government would reintroduce legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.The original draft law -- which died when Parliament shut down in November -- proposed slapping fines on those possessing up to 15 grams, or about half an ounce, of marijuana. Martin said he thought the proposed fines should be increased."I think there ought to be greater penalties, because we're not talking about legalizing it...but I think the legislation essentially makes sense," he told CBC television on Tuesday."I don't believe that a young person should have a criminal record for the rest of their lives because they got caught with a very small quantity."Officials estimate 100,000 of the country's 31 million people use pot daily and say 20,000 are convicted each year for using marijuana. Possession of pot carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine of up to C$1,000 ($760).Randy Caine, one of the three defendants, said he was happy the judges had been split over the decision."This shows that at least one third of the Supreme Court of Canada has found the significance of the arguments (which) I think are consistent with the overall views of Canadians," he told CBC television.Canadian police, who welcomed the ruling, said Martin's proposed legislation would result in a crime surge."Decriminalizing the use of marijuana sends such a wrong message to youths and Canadian citizens. I think we should stop that," Canadian Professional Police Association President Tony Cannavino told reporters."Organized crime, or major drug dealers, will be able to recruit more and more drug dealers, saying 'The only thing you have to do is carry 14 grams...they're going to give you a fine and we're going to pay that fine'."Washington also dislikes the plan to loosen pot possession laws and some U.S. officials have hinted they may have to clamp down on the two countries' long, shared border, which would deal a heavy blow to Canadian exports.One of the defendants said smoking pot was a lifestyle choice that authorities had no right to ban -- an argument that did not impress the court."The Constitution cannot be stretched to afford protection to whatever activity an individual chooses to define as central to his or her lifestyle," it said.Louise Arbour, one of the dissenting justices, said pot use did little damage to other people."Imprisonment can only be used to punish blameworthy conduct that is harmful to others," she wrote.Source: Reuters Author:  David LjunggrenPublished: December 23, 2003Copyright: 2003 Reuters Limited Related Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Ban is Constitutional, Supreme Court Rules Rules Marijuana Possession Illegal Laws Don't Breach Charter: Supreme Court
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on December 23, 2003 at 12:44:45 PT
Related Article from Snipped Source
Pot Laws are Constitutional: High Court
Sue Bailey Tuesday, December 23, 2003
OTTAWA -- Tokers hoping for relaxed marijuana laws instead got a lump of coal Tuesday from the country's high court. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled 6-3 to uphold a federal law prohibiting possession of small amounts of pot. "I'm bummed out, man,'' said David Malmo-Levine, a self-styled pot freedom crusader in Vancouver. "I was dreaming of a green Christmas but they grinched out on us. "Their hearts are two sizes too small.'' Malmo-Levine, 32, and two other men failed to convince a majority of the top judges that pot penalties are out of whack with constitutional guarantees of fundamental justice. The ban on possessing even tiny amounts does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is therefore constitutional, said the court of last resort. It's up to Parliament to decriminalize the drug, says the 82-page ruling -- something Prime Minister Paul Martin has signalled could happen with a new bill to be reintroduced next year. "It just means that we can proceed as we always wanted to proceed,'' said Mario Lague, a spokesman for Martin. "We're happy that the position of the Government of Canada was maintained.'' The high court punted the hot-button issue straight into Parliament's zone. "Our concern is solely with the issue of constitutionality,'' said the judgment, co-written by Justice Ian Binnie and now retired Justice Charles Gonthier. Snipped:Complete Article:
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