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June 19, 2003
Dozens smoke pot at Toronto police station flaunting 'lawful right' to toke

TORONTO (CP) -- Dozens of green-wearing, pot-smoking revellers partied outside Toronto's downtown police headquarters Thursday, smoking their joints, bongs and pipes without being harassed by a single police officer. Streams of sweet smoke wafted through the air as cannabis crusader Marc Emery, a Vancouver resident, handed out joints to fellow pot enthusiasts and urged them to exercise "the lawful right to possess marijuana."

"Marijuana is legal in Ontario to possess and it is permissible under law to smoke marijuana anywhere it is permissible to smoke tobacco in Ontario," Emery said, calling the province the freest jurisdiction in the western world, with recent court challenges of pot laws and the acceptance of gay marriages.

Although the event was right on police property, no uniformed officers were seen amongst the crowd. Inside headquarters, police seemed disinterested with the party and no officers were made available to comment.

"I trust if the police wanted to apprehend our pot they could've done so," Emery said of the not-so-subtle challenge to police.

"I thought the most provocative place to smoke marijuana with others would be right in front of (police Chief Julian Fantino's) doorstep."

Police organizations in Ontario have said they will not lay charges for possession of marijuana under 30 grams until the country's muddled pot laws are clarified.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled on June 10 that it would not overturn a precedent-setting Ontario Superior Court decision that cleared a teenager of marijuana possession charges.

The Superior Court judge ruled there is no current ban on pot possession in Ontario since the federal government failed to comply with a July 2000 court order to create a new law dealing with the drug.

The Liberal government hopes to have its new marijuana legislation passed by the end of the year. Under the proposed new laws, possession of up to 15 grams of pot -- enough to roll about 15 to 20 joints -- would be a minor offence that carries no criminal record.

In the meantime, Emery said the province, and more specifically Toronto, might get an infusion of tourism from travellers wanting to smoke up without fear of a criminal record.

"(Toronto) is the coolest place in the world to be right now, the most enlightened and the most advanced place to be," Emery said. "With SARS and all the related difficulties we've had in Ontario, this is the ideal (solution) to bring hundreds of thousands of tourists here, for the fine Canadian marijuana that circulates throughout Ontario.

"Tell everybody around the world to come to Ontario; celebrate a unique freedom available only here in Ontario." Emery is recognized in the marijuana community as a leading activist in trying to get the drug legalized. He also runs the B.C. Marijuana Party, Cannabis Culture magazine, a store that sells marijuana seeds, and once ran for mayor of Vancouver.

Alison Myrden, a government-licensed medicinal marijuana user, said she attended the rally not to party, but to thank Emery for his work that helped her get a legal exemption to smoke and treat her multiple sclerosis.

"For me it's not a choice -- it's a matter of quality of life because if I don't have marijuana then I can't get out of bed," she said. "I can't stop throwing up and I can't get out of a wheelchair."

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