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Court Ruling Prompts Pot-Delivery Service

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Pot in Canada may soon be a click away with the launch of a home-delivery service for medical marijuana over the Internet.


Marijuana activists in Montreal announced the start-up of -- http:// www.marijuanahomedelivery.ca -- shortly after a Quebec judge threw out possession and trafficking charges Thursday against two volunteers at a medical marijuana club.


Quebec Court Judge Gilles Cadieux said authorizing those who are ill to use marijuana in Canada while depriving them of a legal source violates the right to life and liberty under the Charter.


Judge Cadieux stopped short of invalidating Canada's pot laws, saying such a decision is up to higher courts. But he ordered a stay of proceedings against Alexandre Néron and Marc-Boris St-Maurice, who faced charges of possession and trafficking after Montreal police raided their Compassion Club in 2000 and seized marijuana.


Mr. St-Maurice immediately declared a moral victory and convened a news conference to announce the launch of a new marijuana-by-mail service for the ill in Canada, opening a new frontier in the challenge to the country's pot laws.


"We want to serve every person in Canada who needs it," Mr. St-Maurice, head of the Marijuana Party of Canada, said in an interview. "Marijuana is an effective medicine that works wonders, and there are a lot of people who could benefit from it and are not getting it."


The price of the high-grade therapeutic pot would be competitive with street prices, he said: $30 for two grams or $120 for 10 grams. To register, customers have to fill out a form and obtain a doctor's letter diagnosing them with any one of the more than 200 ailments listed on the group's Web site.


Some of the ailments on the list are already raising eyebrows. They include everything from major illnesses such as AIDS and cancer to foot injuries, lower-back pain, constipation and the hiccups.


To date, most Canadian doctors refuse to prescribe marijuana. With this service, Mr. St-Maurice said, customers wouldn't need a prescription, just a doctor's letter saying they suffer from one of the ailments.


He acknowledged that the Internet service is meant to prod the federal government to offer ill Canadians a federal supply of medicinal marijuana. If Ottawa acts, he said, the mail service will end.


The home-delivery service — which bills itself as the first on-line provider of therapeutic cannabis — guarantees delivery anywhere in Canada in two weeks, or it will mail another package. Mr. St-Maurice said he especially wants to help people in rural areas who lack access to compassion clubs in major cities.


"We think there are millions of Canadians who could benefit," he said.


The Marijuana Party's plan does not sit well with Canada Post. Spokeswoman Louise Roy said Judge Cadieux's ruling merely halted proceedings against the two accused, but Canada's drug laws remain on the books.


"Anything illegal under the Criminal Code is also forbidden by Canada Post," she said. Postal authorities could notify police if they have "reasonable grounds" for suspecting marijuana is being sent through the mail, she added.


Mr. Néron and Mr. St-Maurice began their legal battle in February of 2000 when police raided their storefront operation in Montreal and confiscated 66 grams of marijuana. The club had been serving patients with doctors' notes or prescriptions.


But Mr. St-Maurice and Mr. Néron were charged before the federal government created its medical-marijuana program last year. That program had been prompted by the landmark Ontario Court of Appeal ruling upholding the right of Torontonian Terry Parker to smoke pot to ease his epileptic seizures. The court gave the government 12 months to amend the law that made it illegal for sick people to possess pot.


Health Canada decided to include an exemption to Canadian drug laws allowing some people to use marijuana to relieve serious ailments. However, the Criminal Code makes it illegal for them to buy the drug.


About 200 kilograms of cannabis grown with the federal government's approval in an abandoned Manitoba mine languishes in storage and will not be used for patients, Health Canada says.


Pot activists have voiced growing frustration about the situation, saying federal regulations make it nearly impossible for the ill to get medical marijuana legally.


On Thursday, Pierre Léger, the lawyer for the two Montreal pot activists, said Judge Cadieux's ruling establishes an important legal precedent.


"It's never been stated in a criminal court that individuals may be justified in trafficking marijuana to help the sick and needy," he said in an interview.


But he called the ruling a compromise because Canadian marijuana laws still stand, exposing the Compassion Club to further police actions. "There's nothing to stop police from going back and arresting them again." Mr. Léger said.


Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)

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