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Windsor Ruling in Pot Case Delays Local Charges

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Sault Ste. Marie’s senior drug prosecutor is awaiting word on what happens now with marijuana possession charges after a potential landmark decision Thursday in a southern Ontario courtroom.


Wayne Chorney said he is expecting instructions from the federal department of justice within a day or two. “I suspect they will tell us to stay charges in the interim or adjourn them for the next month or so,’’ the federal Crown said.


An Ontario Court judge in Windsor threw out a marijuana charge against a teenaged boy Thursday after his lawyer argued there is effectively no law in Canada prohibiting possession of 30 grams of pot or less.


Chorney estimates there are probably 75 to 100 possession cases locally awaiting disposition.


About the same time Justice Douglas Phillips was issuing his decision, a Sault judge reiterated that he will continue to adjourn such cases.


Justice James Greco said Dec. 20 that he wasn’t going to accept guilty pleas or conduct trials on such charges until Phillips had rendered his decision.


On Thursday, Greco said if the Windsor judge found the defence argument correct and simple possession of marijuana is not an offence in Ontario, the court would lack jurisdiction to deal with any accused charged with a non-existent offence.


“The most chilling effect of that would be that already hundreds or thousands of people in Ontario, including residents of this city as well, have been convicted of having committed non-existent criminal offences,’’ he said.


“Even more chilling,’’ is the fact that those people have acquired criminal records.


“To convict an innocent person is far worse, in my mind at least, than simply delaying the taking of what would in effect be an uninformed plea, or delaying the commencement of a trial, whereupon arraignment the accused stands in jeopardy.’’


Greco said it’s not unusual for trial courts to adjourn matters, sometimes for months, awaiting decisions from appellate courts on important issues of law that may affect matters pending before trial courts.


“That is what I am doing. That is what I will continue to do until this issue is settled one way or the other.’’


Calling it a prudent approach, Chorney said Thursday he doesn’t disagree with what Greco is doing.


Phillips’s decision has “created a real flux, a real element of uncertainty in the province,’’ he said.


Note: Up to 100 cases awaiting decision, prosecutor says


Source: Sault Star.

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