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Top court unanimously strikes down conviction of pot activist

By Hempology | October 26, 2006

102606krieger1.jpgOTTAWA — A Calgary man who uses marijuana to help cope with his multiple sclerosis has been granted a new trial after the Supreme Court of Canada found he was deprived of his “constitutional right? to a trial by jury when found guilty of drug charges.

In a unanimous decision, the top court quashed Grant Krieger’s conviction and ordered a new trial by jury after the original judge directed the jury to find the 51-year-old medical marijuana crusader guilty of possession of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking.

“The trial judge’s direction was not a ‘slip of the tongue,’? Justice Morris Fish wrote on behalf of the court.
“His purpose and words were clear. In effect, the trial judge reduced the jury’s role to a ceremonial one.?

The Supreme Court ruling said juries have the power to refuse to apply the law when their consciences permit no other course.

At the original trial, Krieger, 51, confessed to providing marijuana to others in medical need, but he defended his actions on grounds he had no choice other than to break the law to ensure a reliable supply of pot for patients who have a federal exemption for marijuana use.

Before leaving the court room, the judge directed the jurors to convict, and said they were “bound to abide by that direction.?

He later rejected two jurors requests to be excused on religious grounds and grounds of conscience. The jury subsequently returned with a guilty verdict.

The verdict was upheld in the Alberta Court of Appeal. Although it said trial judge Paul Chrumka made a mistake in ordering the jury to convict, it said a new trial would result in the same verdict.

Chief Justice Catherine Fraser dissented, which meant the case was automatically put to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruling confirmed what Fish cited as the well-established notion that juries have the power to refuse to apply the law when their consciences permit no other course.

John Hooker, Krieger’s lawyer, said he expects a new trial can begin within the next four or five months.
Krieger’s legal journey began seven years ago when police seized 29 marijuana plants from his Calgary home.

Since then, he’s become an outspoken activist, and was recently convicted in Alberta provincial court of two new drug trafficking charges. His sentencing is slated for February.

Ottawa Citizen

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