April 2016 NORML Canada Newsletter
Canada to Legalize Cannabis in 2017
The Federal government announced on April 20 that it would introduce legislation to legalize marijuana in the spring of 2017.
Although the date of the announcement was tantalizingly close to 4/20, Health Minister Jane Philpott actually made the announcement during a special session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York regarding drug use and drug-related crime a day earlier.
“We will introduce legislation in spring 2017 that ensures we keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals,” Philpott said. “While this plan challenges the status quo in many countries, we are convinced it is the best way to protect our youth while enhancing public safety.”
“Our approach to drugs must be comprehensive, collaborative and compassionate. It must respect human rights while promoting shared responsibility. And it must have a firm scientific foundation,” Philpott said. “In Canada, we will apply these principles with regard to marijuana.”
While we welcome the news of a definitive timeline, there is no reason why Canadians should continue to get criminal records for small amounts of marijuana possession, or for using the plant, when the government has once again indicated that they want to move in a different direction.
NORML Canada publicly advocated for immediately ending existing prosecutions for cannabis offences in its Open Letter to the Senate Liberal Caucus dated February 19, 2016.
NORML Canada President John Conroy QC, Vice President Professor Alan Young, Executive Director Craig Jones PhD, along with other dedicated NORML Canada volunteers will continue to encourage the Liberals to ensure reasonable access for all adults and for children with health care recommendations for medical access.
Legalization Task Force Will Have No Cannabis People
There will be no cannabis people on the legalization task force although the task force will consult with the cannabis community. Bill Blair has confirmed that the task force will have six people representing various fields including science, health, law enforcement and justice, but there will be no cannabis people on the task force. This is like regulating scuba diving, but including no scuba divers on the task force.
Mandatory Minimums Barely Alive
The coffin that will hold mandatory minimum jail sentences for drug offences may have received its last nail. On April 15, 2016 the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Lloyd 2016 SCC 13 found a one year mandatory minimum jail sentence for trafficking when an offender has a previous drug conviction within the last 10 years to be a breach of s. 12 of the Charter which bars cruel and unusual punishment. A sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment if is grossly disproportionate to the offence and the offender.
The specific allegations in R v Lloyd concerned an addict selling to support a habit. He was convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. The case is most significant for what it says about all mandatory minimums. The court observed mandatory minimum sentences for offences (such as drug offences) that can be committed in a wide variety of ways, in a wide variety of circumstances, by a wide variety of offenders are constitutionally vulnerable. The government should have included a safety valve in which a judge can exercise discretion in cases that warrant it. Such judicial discretion is widely used in other countries.
The mandatory minimums for drug offences have been successfully attacked in other court decisions. In R v Jackson-Bullshields 2015 BCPC 411 a BC Provincial Court struck down the one year mandatory minimum for trafficking cocaine or heroin while possessing a weapon. The accused was an addict selling to support his habit and he had the knife for self-defence. In R v Vu 2015 ONSC 5834 an Ontario Superior Court struck down the mandatory minimum sentences for growing 6 – 200 cannabis plants. In R v Elliot 2016 BCSC 393, the BC Supreme Court also struck down the mandatory minimum sentences for growing 6 – 200 plants. Elliot was argued by NORML Canada President, John Conroy.
Since R v Lloyd came out things have not gone well for government lawyers. On April 26, 2016, the BC Court of Appeal in R v Dickey 2016 BCCA 177 found the two year mandatory minimum for trafficking in a public place frequented by people under 18 or trafficking or for trafficking while using the services of someone under 18 years of age to be unconstitutional. R v Dickey addressed three crown appeals in which the trafficking took place at a boarded up school, at a municipal park parking lot, and involved assistance by a 17-year old driver (accused was 20). All three cases involved hard drugs and in all three cases the mandatory minimums were struck down as cruel and unusual punishment. Even more recently, on April 29, 2016, in R v Robinson 2016 ONSC 2819 an Ontario Superior Court struck down the two year mandatory minimum for possession for the purposes of trafficking of small amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and cannabis marihuana near a place where young people frequent. It was a homeless 21-year old with mental health issues at a skate park. The mandatory minimum was found to be grossly disproportionate to the facts of the case.
The Harper Conservatives were warned by experts that the mandatory minimum drug laws would probably be struck down as unconstitutional, but still they forged ahead. They thought long jail sentences for drug offences would translate into votes. Cynical politics have no place in our courts. It is now incumbent on the Trudeau Liberals to fix not just the mandatory minimums struck down in R v Lloyd, but to terminate all of the unconstitutional mean-spirited mandatory minimum jail sentences.
Pennsylvania to Legalize Medical Marijuana
Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. The sale and consumption of marijuana for treating specific serious conditions was approved on Sunday April 17, 2016.
The ‘specific’ conditions include Cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, glaucoma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Pennsylvania is expected to implement its medical marijuana program over the next 18 to 24 months. Under the program, up to 150 dispensaries can expect to obtain authorization to sell directly to patients who have a doctor’s prescription. In addition, Pennsylvania is expected to collect 5% tax on medical marijuana sales.
NORML Canada welcomes the news of one more state south of the border trying to work on regulating and permitting access to the medicine. However, the legislation appears to be restrictive due to the specific conditions and more work needs to be done to ensure access to those suffering from other conditions.
Dana Larsen Arrested
Long-time activist and Sensible BC founder Dana Larsen was arrested in Calgary for trafficking in seeds on his “Free Marijuana – Overgrow the Government” Tour. Mr. Larsen was not selling seeds rather he was giving them away as a protest. The tour is a civil disobedience campaign which continued across the country without incident. On his website he states, “Cannabis liberation is about peaceful defiance and standing up against unjust laws, not only with words, but with concrete action.”
Lift Cannabis Expo Coming to Toronto May 28-29
We are happy to inform that the first Lift Cannabis Expo is coming to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 28-29, 2016 and NORML Canada will be there! If you would like to volunteer to help out at the booth, please email us: email@example.com
For more information, visit our new Lift Cannabis Expo website: www.liftexpo.ca.