Tuesday, Jube 3, 2003 :
Craig Pearson Star Staff Reporter, Windsor Star
Contact: letters@win.southam.ca
Website: http://www.canada.com/windsor/

"'Parade' of pot cases kicked out"

90 minutes, 22 dismissals

The string of wide grins leaving Ontario Court No. 10 Monday afternoon hinted at the historic event inside as Justice Micheline Rawlins dismissed 22 consecutive cases of marijuana possession.

It was the largest wholesale dismissal of unrelated marijuana charges in the province since judges started tossing out cases of possession under 30 grams.

Mondays are drug-offence days in Windsor remand court, which hears pleas and sets trial dates.

But because several lawyers planned to argue that their clients' cases should be dropped, which is normally beyond the purview of remand court, Rawlins agreed to hear them.

Defence lawyer Brian McAllister -- who started the trend in January when he convinced Ontario Court Justice Douglas Phillip to dismiss marijuana-possession charges against his 17-year-old client -- made the initial argument Monday on behalf of another client.

He argued that since Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin two weeks ago upheld the lower court ruling, possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana is no longer illegal in Ontario.

The Crown tried to have the cases stayed until a new marijuana law can be implemented in Ontario, but Rawlins agreed that possession under 30 grams is no longer illegal.

In about 90 minutes, Rawlins rushed through case after case, repeatedly reading a statement which said that the cases are "lacking an allegation of any offence known to law."

In some cases, the accused had their marijuana-possession charges dismissed, but still face other types of charges. Most simply walked free.

"I've never seen a parade of people walking out of court with such big smiles on their faces like that before," said McAllister. "This is exactly what should happen. There's no prohibition on simple possession of marijuana in Ontario and therefore no offence."

McAllister predicted marijuana-possession charges will be dismissed en masse until a new law is enacted.

"If a person is caught with, say, two joints, I don't think it's fair to get a criminal record," said one smiling man who walked free Monday.

Jim Leising, director of federal prosecutions in Ontario for the Department of Justice, confirmed Monday's proceedings were the first time marijuana-possession charges have been dismissed in bulk and said his office is working quickly to have a new drug law implemented.

"What's been happening elsewhere is the charges have either been adjourned or stayed,"he said. "This is the first I've heard they're just dismissed outright.



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