Ambrose can dose – but she won’t.

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Today, June 24, 2015, Vancouver became the first City in Canada to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. It comes as yet another victory to those on the Cannabis Crusade, and another devastating blow to Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose’s anti-weed agenda.

In an 8-3 vote, Vancouver City councilors decided to impose new regulations on the city’s rogue pot-shops. Mayor Gregor Robertson was quoted saying “we have this proliferation of dispensaries that must be dealt with.”

 There are a number of regulations that are being proposed, including the following:

  • Dispensaries will pay a $30,000 licensing fee;
  • There will be restrictions on where dispensaries can operate, i.e.
    not within a certain distance of schools, community centers,
    and each other;
  • Non-profit compassion clubs will be able to pay a licensing fee of only $1,000

Some may speculate that it is unfair that non-profit clubs pay such a small licensing fee compared to regular dispensaries – but Councilor Kerry Jang pointed out that Compassion Clubs offer other services such as psychological counselling and nutritional information/advice. They also assist people in transitioning from medicating with marijuana, to other treatment options (when possible). He suggested that the licensing fees collected from compassion clubs could be used to fund addiction treatment programs.

 While this can only be considered a huge success to medical marijuana advocates, the clock has started ticking: dispensaries now have 60 days to apply for a licence. Some shops, particularly those located in the Downtown Eastside, the Granville Street Entertainment District, and those on Pender Street, will be forced to close.

There are a number of rules in place for dispensaries located in clusters. More information can be found here.

We still recommend keeping a criminal lawyer from team Tarnow on speed dial at all times – remember: freedom to toke isn’t a joke – you can still face criminal charges for the possession of marijuana.

 More on this story as it develops!

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Tell a tale and go to jail: B.C. Mountie sentenced to 30 months for Perjury in Dziekanski case

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RCMP Constable Kwesi Millington, one of 2 Mounties found guilty (four were charged – two were acquitted: Cst. Gerry Rundel and Cst. Bill Bentley) of perjury in the Braidwood Inquiry into the tasering death of Robert Dziekanski, was sentenced on Monday, June 22, 2015. He received a 30 month (2.5) year custodial sentence, meaning that he will serve his time in a Federal Penitentiary. Next to be sentenced will be Benjamin “Monty” Robinson, who resigned from the RCMP on July 22, 2012.  

In delivering his sentence, Supreme Court Justice William Ehrcke dismissed Defence counsel’s request for a 1 year conditional sentence. He acknowledged that the Crown was seeking a prison term of 3 years. The maximum term of imprisonment for perjury under the Criminal Code is 14 years.

Ehrcke stated that the sentence must denounce the Constable’s actions, and deter other Officer’s from engaging in similar conduct. He noted that he decided a sentence on the higher end would be more appropriate, as Cst. Millington’s false testimony “stood in the way of getting of getting a true explanation” at the Inquiry into Dziekanski’s death.

We don’t often see many high-profile perjury cases like we have here. Over the past year or so, in Canada, the United States, and across the world, we have seen that the public’s trust in law enforcement continues to slide downwards. The result of this case is a prime example of why our suspicions surrounding the intentions of the police are indeed warranted.

 But why is perjury considered to be such a serious offence by the Courts? With a maximum sentence of 14 years, it carries a higher penalty than many other obviously serious offences as defined within the Criminal Code. But it isn’t without good reason.

There is a difference between telling a lie, and telling a lie under oath. When you testify in Court proceedings, you are asked to swear, or affirm, that your testimony is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Further to that, as a Defendant, you are never compelled to testify. The choice to do so, or not do so, is one that must be discussed between you and your Vancouver criminal lawyer. Remember, when making a statement to the police, anything you say CAN and WILL be used against you in Court. This is why you should always consult experienced and seasoned counsel prior to making any admissions to law enforcement.

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Smoke it, vape it, bake it, dab it – the time has come to re-format it

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In a ground-breaking 7-0 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that to restrict medical cannabis users to consuming cannabis only in “dried” form, is against theCanadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.Specifically, it violates a person’s right and liberty “in a manner that is arbitrary and hence is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” 

 The legislation regulating marijuana is contained within the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Section 4 and Section 5 which prohibited the possession or sale of anything other than “dried cannabis” are now of no effect.  

 This comes as a great victory for marijuana advocates across Canada – and in particular, to Owen Smith, whose personal dilemma sparked the need for change within the legislation. Check out the blog post we did on Owen’s story here.

 Medical marijuana users are now free to medicate in whichever way they find most beneficial, whether it be to feast on edibles (cookies, chocolate, brownies, etc – you can incorporate THC into almost anything!) vape (similar to smoking, but with a much less harsh effect on a person’s respiratory system), dab, etc. There are creams that contain THC that provide great relief to people with painful, chronic physical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

 Not everyone is as thrilled as Owen Smith – Health Minister Rona Ambrose expressed outrage at the High Court’s ruling, stating the following:

“Let’s remember, there’s only one authority in Canada that has the authority and the expertise to make a drug into a medicine and that’s Health Canada,”

“Marijuana has never gone through the regulatory approval process at Health Canada, which of course, requires a rigorous safety review and clinical trials with scientific evidence.”

While Ms. Ambrose declared that the Federal Government will fight against the normalization of marijuana, it appears that for now, they’re in the weeds.

Heres a link to a new’s story done by Global News

 The Cannabis Crusade continues, check back soon for more!

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Catch & Release: Analyzing the risk of NCR Offenders

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In April 2008, the town of Merritt, B.C. was cast under a dark shadow when Allan Schoenborn murdered his 3 young children inside their family home while in the midst of a psychotic break.

After a 3 month Jury Trial in Kamloops, B.C., Schoenborn was found to be Not Criminally Responsible (“NCR”) for the 3 murders. (Link to original story) Since the time of his arrest he has remained at a Forensic Psychiatric facility in Coquitlam, B.C, and is monitored by the Forensic Psychiatrics Services Commission (more information on their role in this process clickhere)

Just recently, however, he appeared in front of the B.C. Review Board (link for more info) and was granted escorted access into the community. Mr. Schoenborn must abide by a strict set of conditions when he is in the community, including abstaining from the use of drugs and alcohol, no access to any sort of weapon, no contact with a number of different individuals, consent to urine analysis testing whenever it is requested of him, and he must keep the peace and be on good behavior.

The decision of the B.C. Review Board is not one that was met without criticism – in fact, the overall response is a negative one. Citizens are concerned for the safety of the general public, and with Mr. Schoenborn’s well documented criminal history, it is difficult to sway the public’s collective opinion.  The Mayor of Coquitlam, Greg Moore, has stated that he will urge council to have the Board re-evaluate their decision.

The problem that we are faced with here is one that turns its ugly head every time a prolific or well-known offender is afforded the privilege of re-joining society. While concerns will inevitably be raised, people must understand that a qualified, experienced and well-advised B.C. Supreme Court Judge made the determination that the Accused was NCR due to a mental disorder. The subsequent developments in his case, for example the most recent decision to allow him escorted visits into the community, come in response to the progress Schoenborn has made over the past several years.

It is important to note that determinations of NCR for homicide charges are not commonplace within the Canadian Judicial System. In fact, over the span of 2005 – 2012, there were only 13 homicide cases before the Courts where a Judge determined that the Accused was Not Criminally Responsible. This statistic serves to prove that these decisions are not made in haste. They are reserved for cases where an Accused person, by way of mental disease or disorder, does not possess the culpability or rationale to be held accountable for their actions. Once under the care of qualified doctors and mental health professionals, and aided by the appropriate medications, it would seem only natural that the offender would begin to improve. That is, after all, the point of having a person committed to a Psychiatric Facility – by stripping them of their rights and freedoms, we undertake the responsibility of developing a collaborative plan to treat their illness.

No one is handing Mr. Schoenborn a get-out-of-jail-free card. He is maneuvering his way through a system that is intended to identify, diagnose, educate, treat, and heal. A system that is designed to protect us – from each other, and when necessary, from ourselves.

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