Canada: Pot Protestor Leaves Behind Potent Legal Legacy

Newshawk: Chris Clay Source: London Free Press Contact: Pubdate: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 Page: A3 Author: Morris Dalla Costa Author email:

Pot Protestor Leaves Behind Potent Legal Legacy

He doesn't look like someone who took on the establishment. He also doesn't look like a weed-smoking, bug-eyed, spittle-spewing addict.

He accomplished the first and almost won. There is nothing further from the truth than the second.

When Chris Clay leaves London Friday for the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, he leaves a legacy of tenacity, integrity and hopefully an evidence base that will be used for the eventual decriminalization of marijuana.

Oh my God, there he goes again, that degenerate columnist, promoting pot. What's next, sex and rock and roll?

One step at a time, please.

Clay, the 26-year-old Londoner, looked to overturn the antiquated, intellectually challenged marijuana laws this summer using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Even though the judge found him guilty on several counts, including possession of marijuana, it was in a victory. Clay and his legal team's challenge was a reasonable, medically sound, scientifically based argument that carried the day. The boxes and boxes of evidence were overwhelming in destroying the myth that marijuana makes you crazy.

As Justice John McCart presented point after point in favor of decriminalization, you could smell the fear among those who consider the movie Reefer Madness solid, factual evidence in the battle to stop the dreaded drug from spreading.

McCart did rule against the challenge but the evidence and research is now available to continue battering this absurd legislation.

"We weren't disappointed," said Clay. "Our legal team told us it would be hard to win this case in London. Things went so well we thought we could win. The courts on this level find fact. Higher courts are the ones who shape the laws."


Clay is nowhere near done. He will appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal. He's really hoping his challenge will move right to the Supreme Court, maybe this summer.

"The legal team is looking at it," says Clay. "We know the Crown will appeal it all the way up, so maybe we can save a few steps. They are hoping we will run out of money and energy. That's not going to happen."

There are still those, of course, who would love to paint Clay as a wild-eyed radical, not the soft-spoken, measured individual, son of a conservative business person he really is. It's a lot harder to scare people into thinking marijuana must be banned to protect consenting adults with the real picture than with the fictional one.

"I went into a grocery store one day and some guy said, `You're Chris Clay. Here's some money,' " said Clay. "One of my teachers came into the store one day, (said) `Here's one of my students who turned out OK,' and bought some rolling papers."

Clay's life would have been a lot easier had he simply decided to play the game, toke up privately, as many do, without repercussions. He wouldn't have been left virtually penniless and his reputation would have been intact. But he, like thousands of others, know the marijuana laws are wrong. Even now, days before leaving a city on which his trial has left an indelible mark, he doesn't want to be considered anything more than someone who wants to right a wrong.

About 600,000 Canadians with criminal records because of marijuana convictions know the laws are wrong.

And when they do finally come tumbling down, thousands of other Canadians will have Clay to thank for it.

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