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Medical Marijuana Appeal Weak': Judge

Shannon Kari
CanWest News Service

Thursday, March 13, 2003

TORONTO -- An Ontario Court of Appeal judge suggested yesterday the federal government has a "weak" case in its appeal of a Superior Court ruling that the medical marijuana regulations enacted by Health Canada are unconstitutional.

During a court hearing to determine a number of procedural issues connected to the appeal, Justice Michael Moldaver also scolded federal authorities for apparent stalling tactics.

Superior Court Justice Sidney Lederman gave Health Canada until July to come up with a plan to provide legal marijuana to people with medical exemptions that allow them to possess the drug.

The judge sharply criticized the government for requiring individuals with medical marijuana exemptions "to consort with criminals to access their constitutional rights."

Government lawyer Chris Leafloor asked for an adjournment on the motion to stay the Superior Court decision and requested more time to prepare arguments for the appeal itself. "This is a big, complicated appeal," Mr. Leafloor said.

"It may be that this isn't so complicated," Judge Moldaver responded. "A scheme that requires people to go out and buy their medicine illegally is not something that I think any government would countenance."

"This is a very weak appeal," Judge Moldaver said at another point in the hearing.

The judge asked Mr. Leafloor to explain Health Canada's position about providing marijuana to several chronically ill people who successfully challenged the government regulations. "There are certain people here who want an answer. When are they going to get their marijuana?" he asked.

"It is not simple. There are various obstacles," said Mr. Leafloor.

Judge Moldaver agreed to adjourn the legal argument about whether to stay the Superior Court ruling until March 31.

The judge made the ruling conditional on Health Canada granting an exemption to Terrance Parker to possess marijuana, at least until March 31.

Mr. Parker, an epileptic, successfully challenged the blanket prohibition on marijuana possession in a ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal. That decision led to the new medical marijuana regulations that were ruled unconstitutional by Judge Lederman.

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