March 2014 NORML Canada Newsletter
NORML Canada’s National Conference: May 23-25, 2014
NORML Canada will be holding its first ever National Conference on cannabis legalization this year. The conference will take place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 23-25 this year. Events will be held between 11:00am and 6:00pm during the CHAMPS Expo in Toronto. NORML will also have a booth at the event where interested parties can come and discuss our legalization efforts. Seminars and panel discussions will take place on Saturday May 24 and Sunday May 25 during the CHAMPS Expo. Stay tuned for further scheduling updates.
The convention will feature panels and discussions on the reform of Canada’s cannabis laws including strategy and the template for legalization, the state of medical marijuana laws, and cutting edge science of cannabis and cannabis law reform. Information about the CHAMPS Expo, which is hosting the NORML Conference, can be found here: http://www.champsca.com/.
The NORML National Conference has confirmed the following speakers for the event: lead counsel on the Allard case and NORML Canada President, John Conroy, law professor and lead counsel on the Hitzig case Alan Young, lead counsel on the Smith case and Beyond Prohibition founder Kirk Tousaw, professor Eugene Oscapella, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Alliance, Donald McPherson, Sensible BC’s Dana Larsen, and LEAP’s Dan Mulligan.
More speakers are sure to follow, and NORML Canada will be sure to keep you informed as more panelists are added to the event.
Contact email@example.com for more information on the event, and if you would like to learn more about the CHAMPS Expo (tickets etc.) then contact CHAMPS by phone: 818-905-9028 or email and tickets are available through Eventbrite here.
National Day of Action Events In Support of Legalization
For months, users of medical marijuana across this country have lived under the fear that, as of April 1, 2014, they would be denied reasonable access to their medicine. As a result, numerous rallies and events were planned across the country to protest the repeal of the MMAR and commercialization of the medical marijuana industry.
As you may know, on March 22, 2014, the Federal Court of Canada declared individuals who were licensed under the MMAR to possess or produce medical marijuana as of September, 2013, will be able to continue to do so until such time as the constitutionality of the MMPR can be decided at a full trial. Thanks to the hard work of NORML Canada’s President, Mr. Conroy, and the patients who supported the court challenge, on April 1st the right to reasonable access via self-production will not disappear.
However, the fight is far from finished. Our government still intends to remove the right to grow, replacing it solely with commercial producers of medical marijuana. Therefore, we encourage you to still come out and take part in one of the many April 1st, National Day of Action events, which include:
(1) The National Day of Action Rally in Ottawa: Ted Smith and a number of patients will rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to voice their opposition to the proposed repeal of the right to grow. The rally will include a press conference inside the Parliament buildings between 11-11:30am. Those who are in Ottawa prior to April 1st can assist in preparations. Contact Ted Smith at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(2) The Sensible BC campaign has begun a drive to have individuals jam the phone lines of the Health Minister Rona Ambrose. Her contact information and details about this campaign can be found here: http://mmarpetition.sensiblebc.ca/help
(3) In Edmonton, supporters of the right to grow will gather at the legislature to protest the repeal of the MMAR. Details to follow.
If you are involved in another event or have details about the above, let us know at email@example.com or on Facebook or Twitter. Although we won the last battle, this war is far from over. It will take effort from all of us to preserve the right of reasonable access to medical marijuana.
Proposed Changes for Possession Laws In Canada
The Conservative government has confirmed that they are in the process of creating legislation which would make possession of small amounts of cannabis a ticketed offence, rather than a criminal charge. Last August, Canada’s police chiefs voted in favour of a similar proposal. Under current legislation, the only enforcement option for police in regards to simple cannabis possession is either to caution an offender, or lay formal charges (which have the potential to result in a criminal conviction and criminal record).
According to Justice Minister Peter MacKay, making simple possession a ticketed offence would provide police with an additional enforcement measure. The ticketing system would likely apply to possession of amounts less than 30 grams; rather than getting arrested, if caught, a person would be issued a ticket outlining a fine or a court option.
Whether or not this legislation should be viewed as positive is debatable; by outlining a strict possession limit, the ambiguity of whether or not an officer should lay formal charges is dissolved. This would allow those who may be caught with small amounts of cannabis to have some peace of mind, knowing that they will not procure a criminal charge if caught.
However, what may have been dismissed by a caution (a stern warning not to repeat the offence) in the past, would result in a fine under the proposed legislation. It is important to note, however, that the Conservative government does not draw particularly positive opinions in regards to their views, and legislation, on cannabis. It was only a short time ago, in 2012, that the Conservative government legislated a mandatory minimum jail term of six months for growing as few as six plants, as well as a minimum two year prison term for those caught trafficking near schools or areas frequented by youth (under the Safe Streets and Communities Act).
NORML Canada would like to ask our supporters their thoughts on this issue. Do you feel these changes are good, bad, or neutral? Send us your thoughts. We welcome an informed discussion, and look forward to hearing from you. We will post your responses to our social media in the coming days.
A Great Victory in Federal Court!
On March 21, 2014 Mr. Justice Manson of the Federal Court ordered that personal medical growing be kept alive on an interim basis pending trial. The case was argued by NORML Canada President John Conroy on behalf of four representative plaintiffs (Neil Allard, Tanya Beemish, David Hebert and Shawn Davey). Although the order was directed towards the four plaintiffs, it was acknowledged by the government lawyers on the case that the decision would apply to all current licence holders which includes a person with a valid licence as of September 30, 2013, or a licence issued or amended after September 30, 2013. Further, the case was argued on the basis that the case would have wide-spread repercussions to the fledgling Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR).
If the case applies only to four plaintiffs how could there be repercussions for the entire program? However, on March 25, 2014 a similar motion came before the BC Supreme Court in a case called Sproule and the government lawyers took the position that the Allard case did not apply to all current licence holders. The Sproule case was adjourned without a ruling from the court. The government is considering their position on this.
The new MMPR would have ended personal growing on March 31, 2014. Mr. Conroy argued that the MMPR did not provide reasonable access to medical marijuana and that the applicants would suffer irreparable harm if they did not obtain interim relief pending trial. Trial is expected to be 9-12 months down the road. The court found that the applicants would be unable to afford marihuana produced by the MMPR’s new licenced producers and that this inability would likely affect their health, endanger their liberty, or severely impoverish them. The court found that the applicants were paying between $0.50 and $2.00 per gram when they were growing for themselves and would, under the MMPR, be paying $8 to $12 a gram.
It should also be noted that the court set the maximum quantity authorized for possession at 150 grams or the amount specified in the licence, whichever is less. This does appear to apply to the amount that the grower may hold in storage.
There were a number of interesting facts that arose in the Allard case. The government tendered evidence suggesting that there have been 454 applications to produce marijuana under the MMPR, and that while eight licenses have been issued, 10 have been withdrawn, 24 refused, and the rest are still under review. It was also revealed that the Canadian government had approved import of over 100 kg from the Netherlands in the event of a shortfall.
Dr. Zachary Walsh a professor at the University of British Columbia testified that approximately one million Canadians use marijuana to treat self-defined medical conditions while as of December, 2012, only 28,115 had a valid Authorization to Possess. Dr. Walsh noted that about half of the medical users surveyed indicated that financial considerations limited their ability to medicate.
It is important that medical growers be certain as to whether they are covered under the Allard decision. Health Canada has indicated on their web site that all medical patients must destroy their cannabis by March 31 and notice must be given to Health Canada of that destruction within 10 days. If notice is not given Health Canada has threatened to provide information to law enforcement. We encourage our members impacted by these changes to keep a close watch on the Health Canada website and to consult a lawyer if they are not sure where they stand.
Those interested in reading the court’s order from the Allard injunction can do so here: http://www.johnconroy.com/MMARlitigation.htm. The order begins at page 43 of the document.