Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Author: Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, June 21, 2003
Copyright: 2003 Vancouver Sun
Contact: [email protected]
One of B.C.'s most senior appeal court judges says she no longer believes marijuana offences are serious crimes. "While at one time I accepted the received wisdom that marijuana offences were serious crimes, I now am of a different opinion," B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Mary Southin said in a written judgment released Friday.
"In my years on the bench I have sat on over 40 cases which had something to do with this substance, which appears to be of no greater danger to society than alcohol," she said.
Her comments were contained in a unanimous written ruling by a three-judge panel that overturned a lower court decision to convict a Vancouver couple of operating a marijuana growing operation.
"I have not yet abandoned my conviction that Parliament has a constitutional right to be hoodwinked, as it was in the 1920s and 1930s by the propaganda against marijuana, and to remain hoodwinked," she said in the judgment.
"The growing, trafficking in, and possession of marijuana ... is the source of much work, not only for peace officers but also for lawyers and judges. Whether that work contributes to peace, order and good government is another matter."
Southin said the marijuana laws in Canada and the U.S. have made "criminals of those who are no better or worse, morally or physically, than people who like a martini."
And she went on to cite the anti-marijuana propaganda in the 1936 American film, Reefer Madness, which claimed that pot was "the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly increasing numbers."
She cited the foreword of the film, which claimed that marijuana is "The Real Public Enemy Number One! Its first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter; then come dangerous hallucinations -- space expands -- time slows down, almost stands still...fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous extravagances, followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thoughts, the loss of all power to resist physical emotions...leading finally to acts of shocking violence...ending often in incurable insanity."
Southin compared the marijuana law to the attempt to outlaw alcohol during the prohibition era. "This whole sorry history reflects the sorry history of prohibition in the United States," she wrote.
"History, unlike mathematics, is not essentially indisputable. I acknowledge that there may be scholars who see no relationship between the attempt to suppress the use of alcohol, rooted as I believe it to be in Proverbs 20:1, and the attempt to suppress the use of marijuana which, so far as I know, is not mentioned in either the Old or New Testament."
Southin also said she found it "curious that no attack has been made on the inclusion of 'cannabis' in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act...on the footing that the matter is beyond the reach of Parliament.
"Parliament having long since yielded to provincial legislatures the regulation of alcohol, perhaps it might consider yielding the regulation of marijuana."
Southin, known as one of the most outspoken judges on the appeal court bench, made headlines earlier this year when it became public that she had defied Workers Compensation Board rules by continuing to smoke cigarettes in her office at the Vancouver Law Courts.
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