Canada’s new drug laws deliver a blow to dispensary operators

Tousaw outside a courtroom after securing his client a discharge for a marijuana-related offense. Once a normal outcome in medical marijuana cases, discharges are a thing of the past under Canada's tough, new laws.

Kirk Tousaw is a criminal defense lawyer. In his practice, he represents several medical marijuana dispensaries and the growers who supply them. He is seen, by many, as the region’s preeminent marijuana defense attorney. Last week, he gave a talk at the Vapor Lounge on West Hastings, part of Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture Headquarters.

He outlined recent changes to Canadian law, brought into effect on November 6th of 2012, which mandate minimum sentencing guidelines for drug offences, with a focus on their implications for medical cannabis dispensaries. According to Tousaw, the new sentencing regulations make running a dispensary, or even working in one, a much riskier activity.

Dispensaries remain illegal under Canadian law. Health Canada has no plans to include such operations in its medical marijuana policy.

Looking around the room, he remarked how, seven years ago, he felt that he knew every person working in a Vancouver dispensary. Today, that is no longer the case, he said.

The full room contained many unfamiliar faces and there was a distinct impression that the crowd is a basic cross-section of Vancouver’s cannabis culture. A range of ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds populated the room, with only one visible connection: aside from the speaker, almost everyone was smoking a joint. To my left were three young men and on my right a woman who appeared to be in her mid-forties. The three on my left were passing a joint around while the woman on my right smoked one to herself.

Tousaw talked about relevant marijuana-related crimes, namely trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, and production, regulated under section 5 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The maximum sentence for trafficking is life in prison. However, this is not new to the current sentencing guidelines. New are the mandated minimum sentences and their implications for medical cannabis dispensaries, he said.

Minimums kick in when the total amount of marijuana seized is equal to at least three kilograms. Of course, this is not the kind of thing which concerns the average cannabis user. However, as Tousaw pointed out, it is quite common for a dispensary to hold at least that much product on its premises. If there are other cannabis products on the premises as well, such as cookies or extracts, then the full weight of that product is used to determine the amount of cannabis on hand.

In other words, if a batch of cookies contains 20 grams of marijuana, yet the cookies weigh 500 grams, that batch of cookies would be counted as if it were 500 grams of marijuana. If this puts the total over three kilograms, the mandatory minimums may apply. Since many dispensaries also carry baked goods, this only raises the likelihood of mandatory jail time for dispensary operators.

Another wrinkle sets in when considering the rules for deciding between minimum sentences of one and two years. This provision was mostly meant to protect the safety of minors. Hence, proximity to a school, selling to or involving anyone under 18, and similar things are covered here. And yet, as Tousaw explained, there is a persistent vagueness to the wording. For example, if you commit the crime in a place frequented by persons under the age of 18, then you get bumped up to the two year minimum. But what exactly, he asked, is a place frequented by minors? That could reasonably describe almost any place which is neither a bar nor a casino.

He went on to cover the punishment for cultivation, ranging from six months for six to 200 plants, up to two years for the cultivation of over 500 plants, three years if aggravating factors are present. Processing marijuana into other products, such as cookies or other baked goods, also constitutes production. Hence, any dispensary with an attached bakery faces both trafficking and production charges. The strange thing here is that the sentencing guidelines for production are all linked to plants. It is difficult, he argued, to see how such guidelines could be applied to baked goods.

In Canada, the court has the discretion, in many cases, to impose alternatives to incarceration. A judge may issue a conditional or absolute discharge. In this case, there is a finding of guilt but no criminal conviction and the accused is released back into the community.

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Comments

The omnibus crime bill is not

The omnibus crime bill is not about public safety.

 

It is about privatizing prisons and profits.

 

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The entire legal system has

The entire legal system has been corrupted by the prohibition of Cannabis.

For nearly a century now, the prohibition of Cannabis has corrupted the 'heart' of Canada's legal profession, which professes to uphold the rule of law, but in practice brings great disrepute to the administration of justice. Millions of Canadians have ignored those prohibition laws for decades now, recognizing they are unjust and immoral, while the machinery of the state has wasted billions of dollars attempting, but failing, to change the harmless behaviour of citizens through the strong arm of the law, and creating a black-market for organized crime gangs in the process. It is irrefutable that the prohibition of Cannabis causes far greater harm to individuals and society than the drug itself does.

While those lawyers who wrote, write, enact, prosecute and enforce unjust prohibition laws have much to answer for, so do those on the opposite side who defend and advocate for citizens caught up in the injustice system. Just as with poverty, where an industry has arisen that perpetuates poverty & homelessness through food banks and homeless shelters which normalize poverty and homelessness, the war on drugs has created a prohibition industry of defense lawyers, advocates and activists, which also seems to solidify the status quo. Unfortunately, it appears to me as if the love of lucre, which some believe is the root of evil, may be part of the explanation as to why so many lawyers and judges turn a blind eye to the evil caused by prohibition. And to be clear, by evil I do not mean in the theological sense, but in the psychological sense of harming innocent people.

 

Canada Federal GOV issue on medical marijuana

I think, the Government has a new idea of making money. Under the proposed changes taking effect next year; production licenses for personal-use will be terminated, making it illegal for patients to cultivate their own marijuana. Only the commercial producers will be licensed as per the new system. Why government has started taking interest in making money from medical marijuana? We need to fight against this like what the voters in Colorado did.

Will My Butter Tarts Be Shipped Canada Post?

Still no answers to my questions, In the last few month there has been a few companies that are ready to accommodate your large grow rules and have scouted out locations only to run into neighborhood watches saying they don't want a large scale grow op in their neighborhood so how and where is my medicine going to be grown and shipped to me on time? just a note the reason I am growing for myself is that my prescription is so small that I have been turned down more then once from Designated growers because it is not worth there time Can you grantee that this won't happen with your growers? also will the commercial growers have the same variety of strains as the Compassion Clubs and now with the court ruling allowing extracts and baked good, how am I going to get my butter tarts, through Canada Post? This Government policies and Health Canada are stupider then stupid.

Hire a criminal lawyer

It is legally an offense to assault a person, even if some serious argument is going on, so if you are a victim of any such incidence, you can report it to the police and let them take the legal course of action against the culprit for hitting you. It will equally be important to seek help from the Auckland lawyer for fighting the case in a correct manner.

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mariekush9 wrote:
I think, the Government has a new idea of making money. Under the proposed changes taking effect next year; production licenses for personal-use will be terminated, making it illegal for patients to cultivate their own marijuana. Only the commercial producers will be licensed as per the new system. Why government has started taking interest in making money from medical marijuana? We need to fight against this like what the voters in Colorado did.

You think that they are doing it only to make money? hmm... interesting...

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