They Sue To Toke

They Sue To Toke
Posted by FoM on January 11, 2001 at 12:15:22 PT
By Charlie McKenzie 
Source: Now Magazine
To no one's surprise, civil litigatigation is the latest tactical weapon to surface in the drug wars. What is surprising are the litigants. A crack addict in BC is suing his alleged dealers for selling to him, claiming they should have known better. In a claim filed in BC Supreme Court, Jay Martin of Nelson, BC, asserts that the defendants -- a pair of low-rent local dealers who were arrested and charged with cocaine trafficking -- should have shown more care for their clientele. 
Martin claims they knew he was addicted to crack "and could not exercise free will in regard to his cocaine consumption choices." While lawyers and bookies alike give Martin's case the proverbial snowball's chance, most agree it's an intriguing thought. Kieran Bridge, a spokesperson on civil litigation for the BC branch of the Canadian Bar Association, says Martin might as well give it his best shot. "If people are suing cigarette manufacturers, why not drug pushers?" he asks. He doesn't consider Martin's suit frivolous by any means. "Each case," he cautions, "must be judged on its own merits." While there's little danger of reaching U.S. litigation levels, he feels this is just the beginning, and Canadians will turn more and more to the courts in the future. "Times have changed," he says, "and people are more tuned in to looking at things that may be harmful to them." Perhaps the most audacious litigation-in-waiting is an idea currently making the rounds and raising eyebrows among Marijuana party supporters. It remains to be seen if it has a legal leg to stand on, but it's every pothead's pipe dream and quite possibly Paul Martin's worst nightmare. "It's been gelling in my mind for the past 30 years," says long-time activist Michael Patriguen, Marijuana party point man in Nova Scotia. "I've been thinking that there's a need to open up the war (against marijuana prohibition) on another front -- with a class-action suit against the federal government based on negligence and discrimination." Recent court decisions only encourage him. Ontario's highest court has already declared the marijuana law unconstitutional because it fails to recognize that pot can be used as medicine. The Ontario Court of Appeal has given Parliament until July to amend the law. "Once I saw the judges agreeing with us," says Patriguen, "I thought, hey, this might actually work." The suit, he explains, would seek financial compensation for the three categories of people most adversely affected by prohibition: anyone in the hemp industry, or their heirs, who can show financial losses due to prohibition dating back to the 1920s; all those, or their heirs, who needlessly suffered when marijuana-laced medicine, which was widely prescribed in the 1920s, was suddenly taken away; and anyone who has ever been prosecuted for cannabis possession. About 600,000 Canadians fall into the latter category alone. Ontario, he suggests, would be the best venue for such a venture. "The Ontario Court of Appeal has already decided that the marijuana prohibition laws are based on myths and fallacy," he says. "That puts us halfway there." Interim party leader Marc Boris St-Maurice isn't quite as convinced but readily acknowledges that the idea has a certain ballsy charm. "I'm no lawyer," he says, "but I think this idea is sounder than it seems on the surface. It would certainly turn the heat up on the political front considerably. Can we hold government accountable for not acting on the mountains of recommendations that have piled up over the past 25 years? Why not?" One dissenting voice is BC lawyer and veteran drug crusader John Conroy. A founding member of NORML-Canada in the late 60s, Conroy has spent the past seven years steering a couple of major constitutional challenges to the marijuana laws through the lower courts. Both cases, R. v. Caine and R. v. Malmo-Levine, are scheduled to arrive before the Supreme Court later this year. If successful, either could wipe out Canada's marijuana laws for good. "There may be something in it (the civil suit) for the medical marijuana community," he says, "but I think such a case would be premature at this point. I think the anti-prohibition cause would be better served if they were to put their time, energy and fundraising abilities into some of these critical cases that are approaching the Supreme Court." Conroy has handled both the Caine and Malmo-Levine cases without a fee. Drug cases are everyday occurrences in courtrooms, but should the trend to consumer litigation take off, this much is certain: drug cases before the courts on both sides of the border will definitely get stranger. Note: Potheads take feds to court over dope law. Source: NOW Magazine (Canada)Author: Charlie McKenziePubdate: January 11 - 17, 2001Copyright: 2001 NOW Communications Inc.Address: 189 Church Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5B 1Y7Fax: 416-364-1166Contact: letters nowtoronto.comWebsite: Articles - Canada:
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Comment #6 posted by Dan B on January 11, 2001 at 20:23:49 PT:
"United States had been spraying paraquat on pot plants in Mexico and a group of lawyers sued US govt. The lawyers won that suit and the government stopped spraying the paraquat. I wondered what ever happend to these lawyers?"...come to think of it, maybe they went to Canada. Perhaps they do have a chance, eh?Dan B
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Comment #5 posted by freedom fighter on January 11, 2001 at 13:32:09 PT
Dan B, Back in 70's
United States had been spraying paraquat on pot plants in Mexico and a group of lawyers sued US govt. The lawyers won that suit and the government stopped spraying the paraquat. I wondered what ever happend to these lawyers? 
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Comment #4 posted by Dan B on January 11, 2001 at 13:05:49 PT:
btw...Thanks, Troutmask
I sent letters to both of my senators, for all the good it might do. I do know that Phil Gramm was (at least in his letters to me) opposed to much of the language in Ashcroft's Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act, especially when it came to 4th Amendment rights (he seemed indifferent to the 1st Amendment issues it raised, though). Hutchison is an absolute "moralist ideologue" (meaning she has absolutely no morals when it comes to the treatment of her fellow human beings--much like Ashcroft), and if God himself were to appear in front of her saying "The War on Drugs is a terrible travesty against my creation," she would more than likely say God has no idea what he's talking about.But I at least got to have my say.Dan B
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Comment #3 posted by Dan B on January 11, 2001 at 12:52:57 PT:
Most Peculiar, Mama!
Michael Patriguen has a good idea in suing his government for damages as a result of their discriminatory war on some drugs (esp. marijuana). I like the idea, and I appreciate that it is at least being approached. It may well work in Canada, although the U. S. is far behind Canada in this matter, and we may have to wait a considerable time before anything like this is feasible for this country (but we can hope). I don't think it will work (the guv has too much at stake), but I like that it is at least being approached.But the "the dealer knew I was a crack addict and should have known better than to sell me drugs" suit is another matter. This Jay Martin idiot needs to take responsibility for his own actions. He became an addict because of his own choices, not from choices made by the dealers. If this thing actually makes it through (the U.S. has already set a precedent for this sort of thing with the recent tobacco lawsuits), every major pharmaceuticals company on the planet should be next, as all of the major ones (and most of the minor ones) sell dangerous and addicting products. The problem is that I think this lawsuit has a better chance in court than the marijuana lawsuit, given the outcomes of the aforementioned tobacco lawsuits in the U.S.The difference between these cases is clear: one seeks to remove personal responsibility while the other is merely trying to force the government to accept its own responsibility. Major differences. And I can foresee both cases being decided in exactly the wrong ways for the wrong reasons.Dan B
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on January 11, 2001 at 12:33:44 PT
Thanks TroutMask
Thank you for posting the url. I saw it in my email but haven't had time to post it so a big Thank You! Yes he must be stopped.
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Comment #1 posted by TroutMask on January 11, 2001 at 12:21:34 PT
Sorry to go off topic, but... really need to stop this fool!-TM
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