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Canada Keeps Marijuana Possession Illegal

Posted on Tuesday, December 23 at 13:17 by canadaka

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The Supreme Court of Canada ruled 6-3 Tuesday that jailing someone with small amounts is constitutional and that any changes to the law must be made by Parliament.

David Malmo-Levine's lawyers argued for legalization.

"We conclude that it is within Parliament's legislative jurisdiction to criminalize the possession of marijuana, should it choose to do so," said the judgment, co-written by justices Charles Gonthier and Ian Binnie.

"Equally, it is open to Parliament to decriminalize or otherwise modify any aspect of the marijuana laws that it no longer considers to be good public policy."

The decision comes as Ottawa prepares to reintroduce legislation that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana in small amounts.

Three B.C. marijuana users had challenged sections of the country's Narcotics Act that makes possession a criminal offence.

The three men – Chris Clay, Victor Caine and David Malmo-Levine – say that jailing someone for a harmless activity violates the Charter of Rights that guarantees life, liberty and security of the person.

Lawyers argued that the government has no right to tell people what they can put in their bodies.

"Before you can make something part of the criminal law, you really should have some objective evidence that the conduct is harmful," said Andrew Lokan, of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

"There really shouldn't be a victimless crime."

But lawyers for the federal government countered that the law should be upheld and that Parliament should set drug policy for the country.

They challenged the assertion that the effects of marijuana are benign with a report that connects use to a number of problems including driving accidents, psychiatric disorders and drug addiction.

Malmo-Levine called it a "brutal day" for Canadians, pointing to all the police resources being used to find and prosecute marijuana growers and smokers.

"They can't find all those missing women in Vancouver, but they have a growth squad to go after all those gardeners," he said in an interview on CBC's Newsworld.

Prime Minister Paul Martin said last week that the government will reintroduce a marijuana bill that died in November when Parliament was prorogued.

The bill would decriminalize the activity, which means people caught with small amounts would face fines rather than prison.

Written by CBC News Online staff

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