Year Ends with Weed, Whacko and Whacked

Year Ends with Weed, Whacko and Whacked
Posted by CN Staff on January 03, 2004 at 22:35:20 PT
By Alan Young
Source: Toronto Star 
Marijuana, Michael Jackson and murder made the headlines in the final days of 2003.Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ended the protracted cannabis debate in our courts by ruling that the crime of marijuana possession is constitutionally sound. Later that week, Michael Jackson made a pre-emptive strike by starting to call his defence to child molestation charges when he testified in the superior court of television. 
While Jackson was proclaiming his innocence, Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino was bemoaning yet another weekend of shootings in the city and once again calling for a public inquiry into the failings of our system of criminal justice.Although marijuana, Michael Jackson and murder have few criminological connections, it is clear that these three year-end stories should make us question the health and vitality of contemporary criminal justice.On the marijuana issue, it would not be proper for me to extensively comment upon the shortcomings of the Supreme Court decision as I was involved in this constitutional challenge. However, I will say that millions of marijuana smokers are perplexed by the court's reasoning that imposing criminal punishment is an effective and rational way to protect people from ill-defined and speculative health risks. The court failed to acknowledge that, for the past few decades, American researchers have received vast sums of government money to identify and discover a wide array of health risks arising from the use of marijuana, but these researchers have been as successful in finding this smoking gun as the U.S. military has been in finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. By upholding the marijuana laws, Canada lost an opportunity to start cleaning up its overburdened criminal justice system. It would have been nice to say goodbye to the tens of thousands of cannabis charges that are dumped into criminal courts every year and clog up the system. Perhaps Paul Martin's experience with a hash brownie and his time spent with rock star Bono will lead him to champion decriminalization, but I'm only expecting a lot of election promises and little decisive action.It is not a good time for indecision because another Askov crisis is looming. Elijah Askov was the alleged bad-boy extortionist who had his charges thrown out because of years of delay in the Brampton courts. The Askov application is the name now given to a defence application to stay proceedings on the basis of a violation of the constitutional right to be tried within a reasonable time. Askov's name has been immortalized, and apparently thousands of criminal defendants are lining up to pray at his altar as we speak.The first Askov crisis led to the staying of more than 50,000 charges in the early 1990s, and the Provincial Auditor reported last month that Ontario courts are now burdened by the highest backlog of cases in the past decade.The second coming of the Askov crisis has been foreshadowed by the fact that some Ontario judges have been strongly condemning the length and conditions of pre-trial detention. There will never be an Askov crisis in the unreal world of celebrity justice. It looks as if the Prince of Pop has figured out how to combat court delay. In quickly taking his case to American network television, he ensured that any potential juror not currently in a coma will have clearly heard his side of the story far in advance of trial. Why wait for a trial when you have the money and fame to be able to fight your case without delay in the court of public opinion? The Jackson televised plea of innocence has been followed by intense, and largely vacuous, analysis by a motley crew of experts pontificating about his body language, his choice of makeup and his choice of words. Many are already prepared to render a verdict before a trial date has even been set.Once you leave the realm of Neverland, the real judicial process does not unfold so smoothly for the vast majority of accused people who can barely afford to buy a minute of airtime on Speaker's Corner. So this year ended with millions of pot smokers denouncing the ruling to maintain the label of criminality on their pursuit of happiness and millions of television viewers sitting on couches dissecting the Prince of Pop's linguistic nuances and facial twitches. While obsessing over these arguably frivolous matters, Toronto had yet another weekend of fatal shootings. Fantino has dramatically warned us that "gun-crazed gangsters terrorize at will".I have never believed there is a direct causal link between shooting sprees and the supposed leniency and inefficiency of the courts, but Fantino may be right in calling for some form of public inquiry into the administration of criminal justice. At an inquiry I would like to ask the chief how he can continue to waste valuable resources chasing cannabis criminals when he has too few resources to control firearm violence. I'd also be curious to ask him if he thinks Michael Jackson is guilty.Alan Young is a law professor, criminal lawyer and author of Justice Defiled: Perverts, Potheads, Serial Killers & Lawyers (Key Porter).Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)Author: Alan Young Published: January 4, 2003Copyright: 2004 The Toronto Star Contact: lettertoed Website: Related Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Still Illegal, Top Court Rules Supreme Court Upholds Marijuana Ban End To Year of Pot Activism Highs 
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Comment #2 posted by jose melendez on January 04, 2004 at 06:37:17 PT
Justice Defiled 
from: Defiled storms the gates of the criminal justice             system to reveal hard truths about the legal community and whom it ultimately             serves. It confronts the hypocrisy of Canada’s criminal justice system,             and Alan Young, a criminal lawyer with 18 years of experience and a professor             of Law at Osgoode Hall, calls for change and compassion in a system rife with             failures and abuses.The author has vast experience challenging the             constitutionality of gambling laws, obscenity laws and drug laws, and knows             firsthand the hypocritical nature of Canada’s criminal justice system. He             charges lawyers and judges with greed, rudeness, and apathy, and Canada’s             constitution with prejudice and archaism. 
        He believes today’s criminal justice system reflects the             skewed and contradictory beliefs of an unforgiving society. His high profile             cases—which include defending Terry Jean Bedford, the Bondage Bungalow             Dominatrix, and challenging for the first time in Canadian history the             prohibition of cannabis—lend weight and intrigue to his text.             Armed with a clear and controversial message, an unwavering belief in             change and a highly irreverent tone, Justice Defiled looks to shake up a             system that has been static in its discrimination and rampant in its abuse for             far too long.
         Written by Alan N. Young. Published by Key Porter Books,             2003.
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Comment #1 posted by Virgil on January 04, 2004 at 01:14:20 PT
Why not Alan?
On the marijuana issue, it would not be proper for me to extensively comment upon the shortcomings of the Supreme Court decision as I was involved in this constitutional challenge. Why not do a lengthy article on it since you have eyewitness accounts and all? It is not like you would be plugging a book- author of Justice Defiled: Perverts, Potheads, Serial Killers & Lawyers (Key Porter).
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