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Pot advocates 'bummed out' by Supreme Court's upholding of marijuana law

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December 24, 2003
Terri Theodore
Canadian Press
Vancouver

The Supreme Court of Canada's decision to uphold the federal government's right to outlaw marijuana upset pot advocates who believed history's tide was on their side. "I was dreaming of a green Christmas but they grinched out on us," said David Malmo-Levine of Vancouver, one of three Canadians who challenged the constitutionality of pot possession laws before the high court.

"Their hearts are two sizes too small."

Marijuana activists gathered at the Vancouver headquarters of Pot-TV, wrapping their sorrows in a thick blanket of pot smoke.

Malmo-Levine, who argued his own case before the Supreme Court, said he wasn't bothered his possession conviction was upheld but said he felt betrayed by the judges.

"What's worse is that the laws are still on the books," he said. "What we were really trying to do with the constitutional challenge was to get the laws off the books."

The ruling will only fuel the market for illegally grown pot and the dangers that industry represents such as illegally wired grow-ops and proliferation of guns, said Malmo-Levine.

Marc-Boris St-Maurice, leader of Canada's Marijuana Party, said the ruling amounts to an early Christmas present for gangs that traffic marijuana.

"It's a back-to-school gift for drug pushers," he said.

"It's basically telling them that it's business as usual and your profits are safe, there's no risk of the government ever getting any of that money into their coffers for hospitals and roads.

"It means, 'hey Hells Angels, better order your new motorcycle for 2004 because the money's coming in.' "

Malmo-Levine said crime dropped in countries such as Holland that allow regulated sale of marijuana.

The Liberal government's proposed legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot will not help, Malmo-Levine said.

"That version is worse than nothing at all because it will involve more people . . . getting fines and going to jail because of not paying fines," he said.

Malmo-Levine said he was "bummed out, man."

Marijuana Party president Marc Emery, who held a cross-country pot-smoking protest this year, said he's worried about the future of new Prime Minister Paul Martin's pledge to reintroduce the proposed legislation.

The bill's provisions to toughen penalties for those who grow pot "affects a quarter-million people in British Columbia and could potentially double the prison population within a few short years," he said.

Philippe Luca, with the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, said the court had an opportunity to issue a ruling "based on science and reason."

"I'm disappointed that instead we're going to be spending another $340 million or so this year on maintaining cannabis prohibition and criminalizing another 50,000 Canadians for behaviour that's neither harmful to themselves or society," he said.

Luca said the black market will continue to flourish, which makes it harder to keep pot out of the hands of children.

Jim Wood, owner of Hemp NB's Cannabis Cafe in Saint John, N. B., whose members can buy pot for medicinal purposes, said the ruling didn't concern him.

"Really it doesn't change anything," he said. "It's only a ruling on recreational use and there's really nothing in there to do with medicinal marijuana."

Randy Caine of Langley, B.C., also involved in the constitutional challenge, said he was pleased the issue reached the high court. Public attitudes towards pot use have softened dramatically since the legal fight began, he said.

"I think we've all sort of come out of the closet," said Caine. "Ten years ago, I was viewed as a criminal, then I became an outlaw (but) I think maybe I'm just naughty now."

Hugo St-Onge, president of Quebec's Bloc Pot Party, called the court's decision conservative because it leaves the issue in the hands of Parliament.

"It's a step backwards," said St-Onge, who claimed 20 per cent of Quebecers use pot. "People will continue to be penalized by fines and prison."

A spokesman for Canada's police officers warned Ottawa to act cautiously and set up a strategy to deter drug use before changing the law.

"Police officers across Canada don't have the tools and don't have the proper training to face this legislation," said Tony Cannavino, president of the 54,000-member Canadian Professional Police Association.

The sentiment was echoed by Vancouver-based Focus on the Family.

"There are many forces working against parents on the issue of drug use, and the government's plan to decriminalize marijuana would make a parent's job even tougher," said vice-president Derek Rogusky.
 

Copyright © 2003, Canadian Press