Canada: Lawmakers, Police Seek Guidance After Pot Laws Quashed

April 14, 2011 – Lawmakers and enforcers are looking for guidance on how to react to an Ontario Superior Court decision quashing Canada’s marijuana laws.

On Monday, a St. Catharines judge ruled the federal medical marijuana program unconstitutional because patients are largely prevented from legally accessing the drugs they need. Justice Donald Taliano also struck down the country’s laws against possessing and producing cannabis, giving Ottawa three months to fix the program before marijuana is effectively legalized.

The government is now awaiting direction from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, said Tim Vail, spokesperson for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who is currently running for re-election in Nunavut.

“We are disappointed with this decision,” Vail said in an emailed statement. “The independent Public Prosecution Service has to decide whether to appeal this decision.

“While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion to ensure public safety.”

Vail added that the government is considering “longer-term measures” to reform the medical marijuana program.

The Public Prosecution Service is studying the judge’s decision and has 30 days to appeal the ruling which it is expected to do.

In the meantime, the Ontario Provincial Police will continue to enforce marijuana laws — even though they may cease to exist in less than 90 days.

“It does create a legal grey zone,” said OPP spokesman Sgt. Pierre Chamberland. “Until that grey zone becomes a black and white, then the legislation remains status quo, and our actions in regards to enforcing the law remain status quo.”

In Toronto, police are waiting to consult with federal officials before deciding what impact the court decision will have on front-line drug policing.

“We need to read the decision, but also we need to speak with some colleagues in the criminal justice system,” said Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash. “We’ll put out guidance to our officers so (they) know where we stand.”

Taliano made his ruling based on findings that Canadian doctors have “massively boycotted” the medical marijuana program.

Patients seeking a licence to obtain or grow marijuana for medicinal purposes must first find a doctor to support their application, a near-impossible task that forces sick people to resort to illegal measures, Taliano said in his ruling.

Toronto family physician Dr. Tsvi Gallant said most doctors are uneducated about the medicinal properties of marijuana and physicians are largely discouraged by their professional associations from participating in the program.

“I know most of my colleagues would refuse to touch it,” Gallant said. “A lot of family physicians will not even want to deal with it in the first place.”

Gallant said patients must also renew their medical marijuana licences every year but processing times are glacially slow.

“It’s much easier to go to the street and buy it illegally,” said Gallant, who encourages most of his patients to buy cannabis from compassion clubs. “Patients start breaking the law. And it happens again and again and again and again.” Source.

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