NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Marijuana Activist Launches Canadian Constitutional Challenge


November 1995

The owner of a hemp and marijuana products store in London, Ontario has filed a constitutional challenge to change the laws prohibiting marijuana in Canada.

Christopher Clay, 24, was charged with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, marijuana trafficking, and possession of psilocybin mushrooms after a search warrant was executed at his store. Police seized 17 clone plants and approximately $30,000 in legal merchandise, according to Clay. Clones are cuttings that can be grown to produce genetically identical plants. Clay claims that the plants contained no THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

The search warrant stemmed from Clay's alleged sale of a three-inch marijuana clone to an undercover police officer on May 17. Clay's store, the Great Canadian Hemporium, has been selling hemp paper and clothing items for about two years. The charge of trafficking carries a life sentence if Clay is convicted.

According to Clay's lawyers, Alan Young and Paul Burstein, the constitutional challenge is based on three ideas. First, Clay's lawyers will argue that the Constitutional right to privacy means that the government cannot dictate behaviors that take place in the home. They will be using the reasoning of the 1975 Alaskan Supreme Court ruling allowing possession of personal use amounts of marijuana in the home. [How can a store claim to be a home if no one lives there? -- EES]

Young and Burstein will also argue that the 1988 Canadian Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion means that the government cannot regulate matters concerning how individuals treat their own bodies. Clay's lawyers will also challenge the legal status of marijuana, arguing that possession or trafficking of the drug should not be treated the same as possession or trafficking of "harder" drugs like cocaine and heroin. Such issues were litigated in the U.S. Courts in the 1970s.

Clay says he needs to raise $60,000 (Canadian) to succeed with the constitutional challenge. He is selling "victory bonds" through the Internet for $20. Contributions supposedly will be redeemed for marijuana -- in Canada  -- when his case changes the law, he said.

Young said Clay's case is similar to the case that decriminalized marijuana in Germany in 1994 (see, "German High Court Legalizes Use and Possession of Small Amounts of Cannabis," NewsBriefs, July 1994, p. 1).

[Information for this story was submitted by Chris Clay through his World Wide Web page, which can be found at To make contributions to Clay's defense fund, contact the Hemp Nation Headquarters, 343 Richmond Street, Suite 101, London, Ontario, NGA 3C2, 519-433-5267. For more information about this case, readers can contact Chris Clay at the address above or via e-mail at Professor Alan Young can be reached at Osgoode Hall Law School, 4700 Keele Street, North York, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3, 416-736-5595, fax: 416-736-5736. Attorney Paul Burstein can be reached at 11 Prince Arthur Ave., Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1B2, 416-966-4034, fax: 416-964-5821, e-mail:]