Crown Presses Case Against 'Pot Club'
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Author: Shannon Kari, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Ottawa Citizen
Contact: [email protected]
Another court had spoken in favour of 'compassion clubs' for medical supply.
The federal Justice Department will prosecute two employees of the Toronto Compassion Centre, despite a recent court ruling that such clubs may be a good way to distribute marijuana to people with medical exemptions.
A preliminary hearing for Warren Hitzig and Zack Naftolin was set for July 14, after a brief court appearance in Toronto yesterday.
Hitzig and Naftolin both face six trafficking-related charges because of their involvement in the centre, which provided medical marijuana for five years before a police raid last summer.
"This is all about politics," said Hitzig, after learning the Crown would not withdraw the criminal charges. "There are courts saying medical marijuana is important yet the government is not doing anything to help sick people" said Hitzig, who is a student at Concordia University in Montreal.
Hitzig was charged after more than a dozen Toronto police officers raided the centre in August, a few days after he testified in a civil suit challenging federal Marijuana Medical Access Regulations.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Sidney Lederman ruled earlier this month that the regulations are unconstitutional because medically needy people are required "to rely on black market marijuana."
The judge referred to what he called "the problem of the first seed," and noted that there is no legal way for someone with a medical exemption to obtain marijuana.
"Because they do not provide for a legal source or supply of cannabis," Judge Lederman said the regulations "actually foster the criminal conduct they are supposed to be working against."
The judge suspended his ruling for six months to give the government time to find a way to distribute a legal supply of marijuana.
"The government might consider creating properly regulated distribution centres or licensing compassion clubs," said Judge Lederman.
Last month a judge in Quebec threw out trafficking charges against organizers of a Montreal compassion club, also because of the lack of a legal source for marijuana.
Hitzig's lawyer, Paul Burstein, said yesterday there is no evidence the Toronto centre sold marijuana to people without documentation to show they needed it for medical reasons.
"This is a waste of taxpayers' money" said Burstein, who criticized the federal government's "forked tongue approach to this issue."
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