Marijuana-smoking minister jailed 3 months
2.5 months.....why even bother? seems like a big waste of resources......-UA
May 30 2011 peter small thestar.com
Shahrooz Kharaghani, 32, was previously found guilty of trafficking and possessing cannabis for the purpose of trafficking in a Queen St. E. neighbourhood.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Thea Herman said Monday she accepts that Kharaghani, who sold pot from the group’s Beach-area storefront church, was not motivated by profit and believes pot-smoking is beneficial.
“There were likely people who lived in the vicinity who do not share this view,” Herman said.
Kharaghani will serve 2 ½ months, after credit is given for pretrial custody.
Crown prosecutor Nick Devlin had originally recommended a six-month community sentence, likely to involve one or two months of house arrest, a curfew afterward and some form of community service.
But Kharaghani’s lawyer, George Filipovic, told his sentencing hearing earlier this month that given house arrest, his client would immediately smoke pot to commune with God, which would mean violating a condition to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour.”
The breach would land Kharaghani in jail, so he might as well go to jail straightaway, Filipovic argued.
Kharaghani and co-accused Peter Styrsky, 53, are ministers in the Assembly of the Church of the Universe, which has an estimated 4,000 congregants across Canada.
They smoke dope as a spiritual practice and wear cotton and hemp beanies as religious headgear.
Both Kharaghani and Styrsky have been convicted in a case that dates to 2006.
Styrsky has been sentenced to a six-month jail term, but was immediately released because of credits for pre-trial custody.
At their trial the two men lost their constitutional challenge, on religious grounds, of Canada’s pot laws.
Herman ruled that group members were earnest in their beliefs and agreed that their religious rights were being limited.
But the judge dismissed their challenge because she did not think it was possible to create a workable religious exemption to Canada’s pot-smoking and selling prohibitions.
But both men are going to appeal Herman’s constitutional ruling, Filipovic told reporters outside court.
Filipovic said his client is doomed to a life in and out of jail because he will never give up smoking pot.
Devlin, who prosecuted the case with Donna Polgar, told reporters that selling pot is a crime, and the court found that there are no religious exemptions.
“Members of the community can be satisfied that the courts won’t permit people to set up residential drug conveniences stores in their neighbourhoods whether under the guise of a religion or otherwise,” Devlin said.
In an April 11 ruling, Justice Donald Taliano found that doctors across the country have “massively boycotted” the medical marijuana program and largely refuse to sign off on forms giving sick people access to necessary medication.
As a result, legitimately sick people cannot access medical marijuana through appropriate means and must resort to illegal actions.
Doctors’ “overwhelming refusal to participate in the medicinal marijuana program completely undermines the effectiveness of the program,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
“The effect of this blind delegation is that seriously ill people who need marijuana to treat their symptoms are branded criminals simply because they are unable to overcome the barriers to legal access put in place by the legislative scheme.”
Taliano declared the program to be invalid, as well as the criminal laws prohibiting possession and production of cannabis. He suspended his ruling for three months, giving Ottawa until mid-July to fix the program or face the prospect of effectively legalizing possession and production of cannabis.
The judge’s decision comes in a criminal case involving Matthew Mernagh, 37, of St. Catharines who suffers from fibromyalgia, scoliosis, seizures and depression.
Marijuana is the most effective treatment of Mernagh’s pain. But despite years of effort, he has been unable to find a doctor to support his application for a medical marijuana licence.
Mernagh resorted to growing his own cannabis and was charged with producing the drug.
Taliano found doctors essentially act as gatekeepers to the medical marijuana program but lack the necessary knowledge to adequately give advice or recommend the drug. He also found that Health Canada has made “no real attempt to deal with this lack of knowledge.”
Taliano said the issue is Canada-wide.
Twenty-one patients from across the country testified in the case, saying they were rejected by doctors a total of 113 times.
One Alberta patient was refused by 26 doctors; another in Vancouver approached 37 physicians without finding a single one to sign off on the form.
Patients also face lengthy delays — as long as nine months — in having their medical marijuana applications processed by Health Canada.
“The body of evidence from Mr. Mernagh and the other patient witnesses is troubling,” Taliano wrote. “The evidence of the patient witnesses, which I accept, showed that patients have to go to extraordinary lengths to acquire the marijuana they need.”
Lawyer Alan Young, a longtime advocate of marijuana legalization, said the ruling is a step in the right direction.
“It’s significant because it’s a Superior Court ruling which has binding effect across the province,” Young said.
“By enacting a dysfunctional medical program the government now has to pay the high cost of losing the constitutional authority to criminalize marijuana.”
He said the real test, however, will be whether the judgment stands up in the Ontario Court of Appeal.
“If the government is not successful on appeal, they are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place because they don’t have an alternative program in mind,” he said. “They don’t have a plan B. They’re in trouble.”
The medical profession has been wary of the medical marijuana program since it came into effect in August 2001.
On May 7, 2001, the Canadian Medical Association wrote a letter to the federal health minister expressing concerns with recommending a drug that has had little scientific evidence to support its medicinal benefits.
“Physicians must not be expected to act as gatekeepers to this therapy, yet this is precisely the role Health Canada had thrust upon them,” the letter stated.
- Seems like there is gonna be quite a bit of american tourist dollars pointing north in the next three months, and possibly indefinately if canada decriminalizes it as a whole.