Medical Marijuana Patient Exempt From Criminal Prosecution, Canadian Appellate Court Rules

An AIDS patient awaiting permission from the government to use marijuana may smoke it legally in the interim, according to a ruling this week by the Ontario Superior Court. The judge granted AIDS activist Jim Wakeford a “constitutional exemption” from criminal prosecution under Canada’s drug laws so he may possess and grow medical marijuana without having to “fear being treated like a common criminal.”

“This decision shows that a court would be willing to provide constitutional remedies if the government is unwilling to help” medical marijuana patients, said Wakeford’s attorney, Prof. Alan Young. “Anybody who is in a similar situation to Jim’s could apply for a constitutional exemption while the government scrambles to figure out its marijuana policy.”

Wakeford filed a civil suit against Parliament last year asking the court to exempt him from criminal marijuana penalties. Justice Harry LaForme dismissed his demand, noting that Wakeford could request a special exemption to use medical marijuana from the Ministry of Health. Wakeford, along with 19 other patients, placed requests, but Justice Department lawyers admitted that the Health Ministry only adopted preliminary guidelines this week to review the applications. They testified that they did not know when the Health Ministry might approve Wakeford.

Judge LaForme called Wakeford a “bona fide” medical marijuana user, and ruled he should not face arrest or prosecution for his marijuana use while officials review his application.

Young said that the Court’s ruling could influence Parliament to “accelerate” its medical marijuana application process. Government officials now know that the courts “will intervene if they don’t take action,” he said.

Health Minister Allan Rock said the Justice Department will not appeal the ruling.

Presently, Parliament has one bill before them that seeks to legalize medical marijuana. They are scheduled to vote on the legislation, M-381, in June.

For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or attorney Alan Young of Osgoode Hall Law School @ (416) 736-5595.