Victoria police to keep enforcing pot laws despite stay against Canada pot advocate
September 14, 2004
Don Descoteau, Victoria News (Canada)Lack of government supply of medical marijuana at the time led a provincial court judge to shelve a two-and-a-half-year-old pot trafficking charge against a Victoria marijuana advocate.
But the stay of proceedings issued by Judge L.F. Chaperon in the trial of Cannabis Buyer's Club founder Leon 'Ted' Smith and Colby Budda on Sept. 7 doesn't change the laws on selling pot in general, said Victoria police Insp. Grant Smith. 'My fear here is others will use this ruling with the false belief that they will be able to open storefronts to sell marijuana in a similar fashion,' Insp. Smith said Thursday. 'I can say in all honesty if they do so they will be receiving attention from the police.'
Smith, who commands the department's targeted policing division, said his officers aren't going to go out of their way to investigate activities of the Cannabis Buyer's Club or the Vancouver Island Compassion Society operated in the city by Phillipe Lucas.
'But if information comes to us that they are trafficking, then we would investigate it as we would with any other trafficker,' the inspector said.
For Ted Smith, defending himself in court on pot-related charges is almost becoming old hat.
'This is the best thing that's happened in my life so far,' a jubilant Smith said following last week's decision, which saw him avoid conviction on marijuana trafficking charges for a second time.
He is hoping for similar results in several other trials he faces on similar charges. Smith was scheduled to go to trial yesterday (Sept. 14) on charges laid following his arrest in November, 2000 for sharing joints at the University of Victoria.
Last week's stay of proceedings means prosecutors are allowed up to a year to find new evidence and re-try the case or else it gets dropped. The charges related to a Jan. 2, 2002 raid on the Cannabis Buyer's Club distribution centre at 826 Johnson St., then known as Ted's Books.
A disgruntled client who had been cut off from the pot supply by Smith came back and brought a police officer with him, stating the cop could find large amounts of marijuana on-site. When they arrived, Budda was cutting up pot on the front counter and Smith, also in the shop, was identified as the operator of the shop. Both men were arrested.
'We've had this cloud lifted and we've gone from the shadows into the light, so to speak,' Smith said of the judge's ruling. 'We can show people this court decision and I can prove that I'm not a criminal.'
To his mind, Smith said, Justice Chaperon agreed with the club's mandate that 'people with permanent physical disabilities and diseases had an inherent right to use cannabis as medicine.'
Smith testified on his own behalf that he was always very up front with police about his activities and that his club was providing a service that Health Canada was not at the time. Chaperon agreed, saying that she found Smith's evidence 'completely credible.'
Referring to the absence of any government-supplied marijuana in Victoria in early 2002, Chaperon voiced concern for sick people faced with the challenge of securing pot to ease their pain and suffering.
'It is unsettling to contemplate persons with AIDS or who are undergoing cancer treatment being forced to go down to the illegal drug emporium which operates in the downtown core of Victoria to acquire their marijuana from persons who are interested only in selling them drugs of unknown quality for a profit,' she wrote. 'But on Jan. 3, 2002, but for compassion clubs such as Mr. Smith's, that was their only alternative.'
Smith, who continues to have bail restrictions preventing him to have any involvement in the club's operations, acknowledged that the club could still get raided given the fact Health Canada is now supplying marijuana, albeit of questionable quality.
The Cannabis Buyer's Club of Canada has about 1,300 active members, Smith said, estimating that he has sold pot for medical reasons to more than 1,500 people. He added that since the club has been in operation, about 200 people have been cut off for various reasons, among them reselling their medicine.
Smith said he intends to continue the fight to legalize marijuana as well as advocate for the provision of medical marijuana for local patients.
He said he wants to get an audience with Mayor Alan Lowe, who co-chairs the Victoria police board, to clarify the city's position on the club.