[Media Awareness Project]


Newshawk: Chris Clay (chris.clay@hempnation.com) Pubdate: December 1997 Issue SOURCE: High Times magazine AUTHOR: Pearce Bannon SECTION: p.28 CONTACT: hteditor@hightimes.com WEBSITE: http://www.hightimes.com/


LONDON, ON -- Although agreeing that marijuana use is relatively harmless, an Ontario provincial judge has passed the buck on a constitutional challenge to Canada's pot laws, saying any changes to the country's drug legislation should be made by politicians. Justice John McCart then convicted Chris Clay, former owner of a London hemp shop called Hemp Nation, on three trafficking and possession charges stemming from a 1995 raid at his store.

"Easing of restrictions on thepossession and use of marijuana is within the domain of the legislative branch of government," observed McCart during the reading of his lengthy August 14 ruling.

McCart aquitted Clay on a charge of cultivation, and threw out similar charges against store employee Jordan Prentice.

Clay, 26, said he was "shocked" by the judge's decision to wash his hands of the constitutional argument. "The first half of his ruling was very positive, talking about how governments are decriminalizing," Clay noted, "and then he kind of turned it around and said he didn't have the authority to make a ruling."

Clay's challenge to Canada's drug laws during his three-week trial last spring was based on the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Charged with selling cloned marijuana plants from Hemp Nation, Clay enlisted the aid of Toronto law professor Alan Young, and has raised contributions through his internet home page, located at www.hempnation.com.

In his ruling, McCart suggested Canadian politicians should consider easing penalties for pot use in keeping with trends in most other western nations. "The national governments of Canada and the United States appear to be somewhat out of step with the rest of the western world," he noted.

But McCart also noted that the relaxing of some drug laws in other western countries was mandated, in most cases, by their legislatures and not the courts. McCart said he also accepted testimony from defense witnesses that marijuana use is relatively harmless in comparison to such legal drugs as alcohol and tobacco and that it does not lead to harder drugs.

Clay, who faces a life sentence for trafficking, says he intends to appeal the judge's decision all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Alan Young, who will continue to represent Clay, says courts can in fact overturn pot laws, and McCart should have done so because Canadian politicians won't touch the issue. "What I really would have liked to have seen is the judge say, 'We've done enough studies, we can't find the harm we're looking for, and it's time to respect the liberty and trust of all Canadians," he said. After the verdict, Vancouver cannabis crusader Marc Emery offered free pot on the courthouse steps, while close to a dozen supporters rolled and fired up joints. "If you want freedom, you're just going to have to take it," said Emery, who's donated $5,000 to Clay's defense. "And that's what I'm doing right now, we're just distributing pot here, giving it away."

Previous Drug Alliance Wed, 19 Nov 1997

Go Back

Next Police target medical marijuana Wed, 19 Nov 1997


[MAP] [Drug News] [Political Links] [Letter to Congress][Mailing Lists] [Feedback] [MAP Chat] [MAP Forum] [Guest Book] [Search]

Media Awareness Project Contact: Mark Greer (mgreer@mapinc.org) P. O. Box 651 Porterville, CA 93258 (800) 266-5759 Webmaster: Matt Elrod (webmaster@mapinc.org)