The Provincial Court of British Colombia has determined that “…there is no offence known to law at this time for simple possession of marihuana.” In other words, cannabis possession is no longer a crime in BC. Of course, the BCCLA has been arguing for over thirty years that cannabis should simply be legalized and regulated.
The BCCLA’s Policy Director, Kirk Tousaw, was pleased with the court’s decision: “This is a great victory for advocates of freedom and personal responsibility. Prohibiting cannabis possession is irrational. It is a relatively harmless plant and, as we have seen repeatedly, prohibition actually causes far more societal problems – in the form of black market associated violence, for example – than use does.”
Tousaw continued, “What strikes me is that cannabis possession has been legal in Ontario for months and we have not seen any reported rise in usage, driving while impaired or hard drug use. Yet we continue to hear hysterical warnings from certain prohibitionists, particularly in the US, that ending prohibition will cause massive damage to society. Well, it is currently legal for most Canadians and the sky hasn’t fallen.”
The court decision in BC follows similar decisions in Ontario, PEI and Nova Scotia. Untangling the convoluted legal web is no small task. The BC decision relies on an earlier (July, 2000) decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal in a case known as R. v Parker. In Parker, the Court declared the law prohibiting simple possession to be constitutionally invalid because it did not have an exemption for medical use (Parker was an epileptic who needed cannabis to control life-threatening grand mal seizures). Parliament was given one year to fix the problem, either by re-enacting the prohibition or by creating a legislative exemption for medical use. Instead, on the last possible day, Parliament enacted the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR).
According to the BC Court (and, earlier, the Ontario Provincial and Superior Courts), this wasn’t good enough, mainly because regulations do not have the force of law and can be amended without debate. In other words, Parliament dropped the ball. As a result, the law prohibiting possession was held to have been stricken from the books by the Parker case. Interestingly, in a later decision, the MMAR themselves were deemed invalid because they simply did not provide a fair process for sick people to obtain their medicine.
The bottom line: cannabis possession has been legal in Ontario for several months and, as of September 4, 2003, it is legal in British Colombia. And that is a victory for freedom. Link to BC Court decision: http://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/judgments/pc/2003/03/p03%5F0328.htm