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Stay all marijuana charges before the courts pending new laws: Harnett

Article originally published on April 19, 2017 by Advocate Daily.

Now that Ottawa has introduced legislation that, if passed, will allow Canadians to carry up to 30 grams of marijuana, Toronto criminal lawyer Aaron Harnett is calling for all pot charges before the courts to be stayed or withdrawn, reports City News.

“I have clients charged with what we call trace amounts — that is an amount of marijuana that is so small that you can’t even weigh it,” he tells the broadcaster.

Harnett, principal of Aaron B. Harnett Criminal Defence Lawyer, was counsel behind the landmark case that led to the legalization of medical marijuana in R. v. Parker, 2000 CanLII 5762 (ON CA). He represented Terry Parker, who used marijuana to reduce frequent and potentially life-threatening epileptic seizures.

Harnett tells City News that even prosecutors are feeling conflicted about what to do about the charges currently before the courts.

“Imagine being a prosecutor and having to seek a jail term against somebody for an offence you know is going to be legal in a year’s time,” he says. “Prosecutors are humans too and they really don’t want to be placed in that hypocritical position.”

The proposed legislation sets out a zero-tolerance policy for drivers who use marijuana, says City News.

“Police say they’ve been experimenting with roadside test technology, but they have to wait for the feds to approve the equipment,” it says. “Meanwhile police say they will continue to enforce the current law as it stands. They claim they have not made simple marijuana possession a priority in years.”

The federal Liberals tabled a bundle of proposed bills in the House of Commons last week that will legalize recreational marijuana for people aged 18 and older. The legislation also includes stringent new criminal sanctions for people who break the law, reports the Canadian Press.

The Canadian Pres highlights some key points of the legislation introduced to legalize marijuana by July 2018:

  1. Sales to be restricted to people age 18 and older, although provinces would have the jurisdiction to increase their own minimum age.
  2. Adults 18 and older would be allowed to publicly possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent in non-dried form.
  3. Sales by mail or courier through a federally licensed producer would be allowed in provinces that lack a regulated retail system.
  4. Adults would be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants for each residence, with plants not to exceed one metre in height.
  5. Adults would be allowed to produce legal cannabis products, such as food or drinks, for personal use at home.
  6. At first, sales will entail only fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oils, and seeds and plants for cultivation. Sales of edibles will come later, once regulations for production and sale can be developed.
  7. Possession, production and distribution outside the legal system would remain illegal, as would imports or exports without a federal permit. Such permits will cover only limited purposes, such as medical or scientific cannabis and industrial hemp.
  8. Travellers entering Canada would still be subject to inspections for prohibited goods, including cannabis.
  9. The existing program for access to medical marijuana would continue as it currently exists.

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