Marijuana possession remains illegal, Canada's highest court rules
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
TORONTO, Canada (AP) - Marijuana possession in Canada will remain illegal, the country's Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision yesterday, after three plaintiffs failed to convince the courts that laws banning the drug are unconstitutional.
The court's decision throws the issue back to Canada's federal government, which had been planning to change its marijuana laws.
Prime Minister Paul Martin is expected to reintroduce a bill, first proposed under former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, that would eliminate potential jail time and criminal records for those convicted of pot possession.
The bill would not legalise the drug, and would maintain or increase already stiff penalties for large-scale growers and traffickers. It would make possession of less than 15 grams (about half an ounce) of pot a minor offense punishable by fines of 100 Canadian dollars (US$75) to C$400 (US$300), much like traffic tickets.
The Supreme Court considered three cases involving two self-described marijuana activists and one man who was caught smoking marijuana. All three had failed to persuade lower courts that Canada's pot law is unconstitutional.
The judgment ignited reaction from all fronts of the country's ongoing marijuana debate.
''It's nice to see at least three of the Supreme Court justices have half a brain,'' said Dominic Kramer, a marijuana activist who runs a store selling hemp products and paraphernalia in Toronto. ''My huge patriotism may slowly be dissipating. I have a lot of faith in my country, in freedom and justice, but it doesn't seem like we have a whole lot of that left.''
Tony Cannavino, president of the Canadian Police Association, welcomed the decision cautiously but expressed concern over Martin's proposed bill.