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Canadian Constitutional Challenge to Marijuana Laws Rejected by Trial Court, Appeal Planned


August 1997

On August 14, Justice John McCart of the Ontario (Canada) Court, found Chris Clay of London, Ontario guilty on three counts of marijuana possession and trafficking. Clay had deliberately sold marijuana plants with the intent of bringing a constitutional challenge of marijuana laws to the Canadian Supreme Court (Liana Shaw, "London Man Challenges Cannabis Laws," The Journal of the Addiction Research Foundation, March/April 1997, p. 1; Myles Magner, "Cannabis Trial Ends," The Journal of The Addiction Research Foundation, July/August 1997).

Police arrested Clay in 1995 during a raid on his house and Hemp Nation Shop in London, Ontario. He originally opened the hemp shop to help finance his efforts to lobby for the legalization of cannabis for medicinal, industrial and recreational use. During his trial he received $25,000 from supporters through a fund-raising campaign on the internet, in which he sold "Victory Bonds" redeemable for marijuana if his court challenged succeeded.

In his trial, Clay, represented by Alan Young, a distinguished law professor at Osgoode Hall, the law school of the University of Toronto, argued that there is no scientific or legal basis for including cannabis in the same criminal class as heroin and cocaine. He argued that cannabis does not cross a "sufficient threshold of harm," and that it does not harm the user or society. He also argued that marijuana laws interfere with the medical and industrial uses of cannabis, and violate "the constitutional right to privacy within your own home, and to make choices as it relates to your bodily integrity."

Justice John McCart convicted Clay on three counts of possession and trafficking. Despite the conviction, Justice McCart agreed that marijuana is relatively harmless; that there is no hard evidence of irreversible mental damage; that it does not cause criminal behavior or violence; and that consumption does not increase where marijuana is decriminalized. McCart's decision against Clay was based on the belief that it is Parliament's discretion to decide the legality of marijuana. Clay plans to appeal the conviction (Morris Dalla Costa, "Change In Marijuana Laws Is Inevitable," London Free Press, August 15, 1997; CBC-TV The National, "Transcript: Fight To Decriminalize The Use of Marijuana," August 14, 1997).

Contact Chris Clay at Hemp Nation, 101-343 Richmond St., London, Ontario, CANADA, N6A 3C2, Tel: (888) 781-HEMP or (519) 433-5267, Fax: (888) HEMP FAX, E-mail: