Supreme Court of Canada sides with pot activist

October 28, 2006

CanadaPress, Daily Herald Tribune (Canada)

OTTAWA (CP) - An Alberta judge who ordered a jury to convict a medical marijuana activist on pot trafficking charges went too far and violated the rights of the accused, says the Supreme Court of Canada.

In a 7-0 judgment Thursday, the court overturned the 2003 guilty verdict against Grant Krieger of Calgary, who says he should have the right to distribute marijuana to people who need it to ease the pain of serious illness.

The legal effect is to send the case back for a new trial - if the Crown chooses to proceed. It would be the third time Krieger faces a jury on the same charge of possession of marijuana for purposes of trafficking.

Krieger, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, has legal permission to smoke pot for medical purposes.

He doesn't have permission from the federal government to supply it to others - but freely admits that he's done so anyway.

Krieger has endured a long legal odyssey since he was first charged in 1999 after police seized 29 marijuana plants, the fruit of a grow-op he admitted to maintaining at his home.

He was acquitted by the first jury to hear the case in 2001, but that verdict was later thrown out by the Alberta Court of Appeal.

At the second trial in 2003, Justice Paul Chrumka of Court of Queen's Bench instructed the jury that they had no choice, based on the evidence in the case and the letter of the law, except to find Krieger guilty.

Two jurors objected and said their consciences wouldn't permit them to convict. They asked to be excused from he case, but the judge refused the request.

Justice Morris Fish, writing for the unanimous Supreme Court, said Chrumka's actions deprived Krieger of his right to a meaningful jury trial.

''In effect, the trial judge reduced the jury's role to a ceremonial one,'' wrote Fish. ''He ordered the conviction and left to the jury, as a matter of form but not of substance, its delivery in open court.''

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