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VICS Trial Continues, by Ted Smith

By Hempology | November 30, 2007

The VICS Trial continues to slog on with dates set for Nov. 26-30, followed by 11 more days starting on Feb 11, 2008. The trials have been very interesting to sit through with witnesses such as Senator Pierre Claude-Nolin, who advocates “at best? full legalization with regulation similar to alcohol, or “at least? see existing compassion clubs given licenses to distribute medical marijuana similar to pharmacies. Senator Claude-Nolin has become very outspoken for cannabis legalization since he was chair on the SENATE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ILLEGAL DRUGS which released CANNABIS: OUR POSITION FOR A CANADIAN PUBLIC POLICY in 2002.

That report recommended that cannabis become legally available for everyone over the age of 16.  He sees the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations as a failure. Mr. Nolin stated the number 1 barrier to the MMAR was doctor’s unwillingness to fill in the forms, and then pointed out that the College of Physicians and Surgeons had sent letters to physicians telling them NOT to sign MMAR forms because of possible liability issues. As well, he noted the government keeps saying there is not enough research being done on the herb, but the federal government has cancelled all funding for cannabis research. Another problem he sees is double blind studies would not be completed before our lifetimes, thereby increasing unnecessary suffering, and asked the judge “Is history not here to reduce our individual training time?? Another reason Mr. Nolin states is the MMAR is to restrictive by only having physicians sign forms as opposed to include Naturopaths, Chinese physicians etc. “Doctors have been set up as gatekeepers to restrict access by not legalizing at the same time?. Another reason for the creation and continued application of the laws is the myth that cannabis is a gateway drug, which a common misconception is promoted by prohibitionists. The only gateway drugs found were tobacco and alcohol, according to the Institute of Medicine in the US. 

Also testifying was Lynne Belle-Isle of the Canadian AIDS Society who would like to see community gardens where those able could contribute to the growing or care of their medicine to the best of their capabilities. According to a Canadian AIDS Society study- 86% of those living with HIV/AIDS in Canada acquire their medicine from the black market, 1.7% order from Health Canada, and 36% access local Compassion Clubs. This is despite federal spending of over $25million to produce and supply medical cannabis. The study, which was funded by Public Health Agency of Canada, also recommended the legalization of existing compassion clubs.

Several members of VICS and MMAR licensed growers have also testified about the problems that they have experienced with Health Canada’s programs.  These patients noted how difficult it has been for them to receive and maintain their license to possess or grow cannabis, if they were able to obtain one in the first place.  Complaints about the quality of the herb grown by Prairie Plant Systems for Health Canada have been brought to the courts attention by several patients.  Others have complained that the lack of information from the government about how to properly grow or how to make food and skin products from the plant has left them struggling to learn how to make safe medicine without risking their health and making the most out of their resources.

Al least 10 days of court time has been taken to qualify VICS founder Phil Lucas as an expert in various fields, enter his evidence and begin his cross-examination.  He will continue his cross-examination at the end of Nov, but the first witness to take the stand should be Senator Pierre Claude-Nolin finishing his cross-examination.  At $6,000 a day, the legal costs for the trial have put a financial strain on VICS.  This part of the process has taken 30 days of court time alone, so the final bill from Conroy & Company could be in the range of $250,000.  John Conroy, president of NORML Canada, is one of the most successful and outspoken lawyers in the country and his counter-part, Kirk Tousaw, is an articulate and informed expert in cannabis law who is a member of the Board of Directors of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Chair of the Association’s Drug Policy Committee.  Two better cannabis lawyers could not be found in Western Canada.

They have their work cut out for them in this trial, though.  While the defense has exposed several critical flaws with the MMAR, the crown prosecutors have focused upon the accuracy of some of the statements made by some of the witnesses.  It is expected that the crown will call several employees from Health Canada as witnesses, including former director of the Medical Marijuana Access Division, Valerie Lasher, and Acting Director General of Health Canada’s Drug Strategy and Controlled Substances Program to explain the development of the MMAR.  Given the massive amount of evidence that will be presented in this trial, it will likely take the judge some time to finish writing the decision after all the final arguments are made.  For background information about VICS and their trial see Cannabis Digest # 3, 10 and 14, and stay tuned for more updates in future editions of Cannabis Digest.

Topics: Articles, CD-15th, Fall 2007 | Comments Off

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