JUDGE SAYS POT LAW IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Charge Against MS Sufferer Thrown Out Of Court
CALGARY ( CP ) - A law that prohibits the cultivation of marijuana is unconstitutional because it doesn't allow for medical use of the drug, an Alberta judge ruled yesterday.
Justice Darlene Acton threw out a charge of cultivating marijuana against Grant Krieger, who grows and ingests pot to alleviate the symptoms of his multiple sclerosis.
"Today is a great victory for Mr. Krieger," said defence lawyer Adriano Iovinelli.
"It's another message to the government of Canada that they have to address this issue more thoroughly and Section 56 exemption just doesn't cut it."
Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act allows the federal health minister to exempt Canadians from being charged with growing and possessing marijuana for medical use or research.
But the problem with the exemption is that there isn't a legal marijuana supply, a fact that "triggers the absurdity," Acton told court.
"The irony is that there is no source in Canada for marijuana at this time," she said in her ruling.
Acton gave Parliament 12 months to change the drug legislation so that sick patients can get medicinal cannabis.
But Iovinelli doubts the government will take a year to rewrite the law, because if it doesn't Acton's ruling means it would then be legal to grow marijuana in Alberta.
"I'd be very surprised if the government doesn't react to this," he said.
Krieger, 46, was charged with trafficking and cultivating marijuana. He argued the charges should be tossed on the grounds that growing and distributing pot for medicinal use is guaranteed under the charter section that provides for liberty and security.
He maintains smoking and eating marijuana helps control his symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a progressive, chronic disease of the nervous system that causes tremors, paralysis and speech defects.
"It's more beneficial than any kind of pharmaceutical I've put in my body to date," Krieger said outside court.
"It allows me the ability to function as normally as I can with progressively chronic multiple sclerosis."
Acton did not dismiss trafficking charges against Krieger. He will be arraigned on those next month.
Krieger says he doesn't profit from selling marijuana to sick and dying people. His customers, members of his Universal Compassion Club, are required to have letters from their doctors outlining their illnesses.
He has been to court more than 30 times in his battle to legally grow, smoke, eat, and supply marijuana for medicinal purposes.
In 1996, Krieger drew international attention when he was arrested in Amsterdam for trying to transport a kilogram of marijuana back to Canada.
He was jailed for two weeks in August 1999 when he refused to stop growing and supplying marijuana to ill people. He was fined twice for possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Last summer, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared Canada's cannabis law to be unconstitutional and gave Terry Parker the right to ingest marijuana to fight his severe epilepsy.
The Toronto man claimed pot eliminated up to 80 weekly seizures.
Krieger's son Grant Jr. ran in last month's federal election for the Marijuana party in Calgary Northeast. The 20-year-old Krieger garnered 1,223 votes, just behind the NDP candidate's 1,444 votes.