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Lawyers line up to learn strategy in pot ruling

By Hempology | September 17, 2003

From the Times Colonist, September 17th, 2003

By Emily Yearwood-Lee (Canadian Press) with files from Jeff Bell, Times Colonist staff.

VANCOUVER – Phone calls are flooding the office of a B.C. lawyer who successfully argued his
client couldnt’ be prosecuted because the law governing marijuana possession no longer exists.

“I’ve been photocopying madly my book of authorities, which I’ve filed to pass around to
other lawyers and they’ve been phoning me almost non-stop since this judgement came down to
get copies of it,” Troy Anderson, a lawyer in New Westminster, said Tuesday.

Before his client, Kurtis Lee Masse, entered ap lea on pot possession allegations
stemming from earlier this year, Anderson brought forward an application arguing there
was no such offence, relying on anO ntario Court of Appeal ruling from 2000.

“It was successful, so I would expect and -f rom what I’ve been hearing from other
defence lawyers – other people are brining the same sort of application,” said Anderson.

Judge Patrick Chen wrote that, in his view, “Section 4of the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act, as it applies to marijuana, ceased to be valid legislation after July 31, 2001.”

The date refers to the expiry of a one-year grace period set by the Ontario court
in making its ruling in the earlier case.

Chen wrote that the the Ontario decision “severed the marijuana possession prohibition
from other parts of Section 4 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and declared
it to be invalid, but suspended the declaration of invalidity for a period of one year ‘to
provide Parliament with the opportunity to fill the void.’”

Government lawyers are looking at whether to appeal Chen’s ruling, said a spokeswoman for
the federal Deptartment of Justice’s B.C. region.

“I think it’s important for British Columbians to know there is still an existing law in this
province and the judgment is not binding,” said Lyle Cantin. “So it continues to be an
offence to have simple possession.”

B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman agreed, saying the decision would not bind the B.C. Supreme
Court or the Supreme Court of Canada.

“We’ll watch whether an appeal takes place and moves forward,” said Coleman.

In Victoria, no one should expect the police approach to marijuana laws to change anytime
soon, despite the ruling.

Victoria police Insp. Darrell McLean said Chen’s decision is not binding and represents
only one judge’s viewpoint.

Police will continue their current approach to marijuana cases, he said.

“At this time, it’s business as usual.”

A spokeswoman for Vancouver’s police department said she hasn’t heard of any fallout so
far from Chen’s Sept. 4 ruling.

“As far as law enforcement is concerned, it is still considered to be an illegal substance
and officers can still proceed with requests to counsel for charges if they feel its
necessary,” said Const. Sarah Bloor.

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