As five police officers watched from the steps of Regina's police station, an officer circulating in the crowd moved to handcuff marijuana activist Marc Emery moments after he lit a marijuana pipe Saturday afternoon.
The cannabis crusader was in Regina on his Summer of Legalization Tour 2003 to protest Canada's pot laws.
Emery maintains marijuana is legal in Canada after the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered Parliament to amend the existing legislation in July 2000.
"It applies to all of Canada, but the only courts that have acknowledged it at the appeal level are Ontario, so that's why it's binding in Ontario but only advisory to other provinces at this time," he said.
Police organizations in Ontario have said they will not lay charges for possession of marijuana under 30 grams until the country's pot laws are clarified.
However, that's not the case in Regina.
Emery was charged with possession of narcotics and released Saturday night. He will appear in court Aug. 20. Two other people were also brought in; one was given an appearance notice for possession and the other was released with no charges.
"The fact is that it's illegal in Canada and until that changes we'll enforce the laws -- it's not our place to make the laws," said Sgt. Albert Philip. "Everyone has the right to protest until you break the law and then we take action when you break the law."
Emery told a crowd of about 100 that he wants the right to smoke and possess marijuana anywhere in Canada.
"My rights as a Canadian exist in every province and in every city, every town and hamlet and I want you to know you have these rights too."
On June 10, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that it would not overturn a precedent-setting Ontario Superior Court decision that cleared a teen of marijuana possession charges. The Superior Court judge ruled there is no current ban on pot possession in Ontario since the federal government failed to comply with the July 2000 court order.
Marijuana growers, sellers and smokers have been persecuted for 35 years, Emery shouted.
"The government owes us an apology for the million Canadians that have been convicted of marijuana offences," he said.
Emery runs the B.C. Marijuana Party, Cannabis Culture magazine, a store that sells marijuana seeds and once ran for mayor of Vancouver.
He has been arrested 11 times and jailed nine times, including his arrest in Winnipeg on July 9 after he lit up a large marijuana pipe in front of police headquarters.
"I'm proud to be arrested on behalf of myself and all my fellow cannabis Canadians," he told a cheering crowd. "You know there's three million Canadians that smoke pot, and we're going to do it proudly and we'll do so without fear."
However, during an interview Saturday morning, Emery confessed to being nervous about going to jail.
"I guess if it didn't bother me it wouldn't be a meaningful sacrifice," he said. "Jail is never a pleasant place. There's not a soft spot in there. It's all cold concrete and steel, and the lights are always on, and I'm vegetarian so there's no food in there that I can eat."
Attending the rally was Grant Krieger, who has multiple sclerosis and uses cannabis butter as a muscle relaxant. He and his wife, Marie, run the Krieger Foundation in Calgary, which provides marijuana and other alternative treatment methods for purchase by people with proven medical conditions.
"The laws stop citizens of this society from being able to heal themselves," he said.
He smoked a joint with Emery at the Winnipeg police station, he said.
"The laws of this nation must change over the use of cannabis," he said.
The Liberal government hopes to have its new marijuana legislation passed
by the end of the year. Under the proposed new laws, possession of up to
15 grams of pot -- enough to roll 15 to 20 joints -- would be a minor offence
that carries no criminal record.
Copyright © 2003, The Leader-Post (Regina)