POT ADVOCATE TO BUTT OUT
Marijuana activist Ted Smith won't be smoking cannabis in public anytime soon.
He made his pronouncement Wednesday after Provincial Court Judge Judith Kay
imposed a $500 fine and left him with a trafficking conviction stemming
from a rally at UVic five years ago where Smith passed out joints to a
"The fine isn't the deterrent. The deterrent is knowing that I and others
can be charged for smoking marijuana in public," Smith told a small crowd
outside Victoria's court house.
"I feel I'm a scapegoat for the government, the university administration
and the police who have gone very far out of their way to stop one person
from smoking a few joints."
In fact, Smith was attending his weekly Hempology 101 club meeting in
November 2000 and speaking about the laws surrounding marijuana use when he
lit five joints, one by one, and passed them among spectators.
Plain-clothed police officers observed Smith's actions, seized a small
amount of marijuana and arrested the cannabis advocate.
At a two-day trial in January, Smith argued that several of his Charter of
Rights and Freedoms, including the freedom of assembly, thought and
expression, had been violated, but the judge rejected all claims. She
deemed that the 35-year-old intentionally broke the law in a public manner
and found him guilty of trafficking less than three kilograms of marijuana
-- a conviction that carries a maximum five-year prison term.
At Wednesday's sentencing hearing, Crown counsel Richard Fowler noted there
was no element of greed or profit to the crime and conceded that jail would
not be appropriate. But he recommended a probationary term to reflect the
fact that Smith's activities were illegal and may have endangered young people.
"It's important from the point of view of public perception and general
deterrence that people realize you can't flout the law and get away with
it," Fowler told the court.
Smith's lawyer, Robert Moore-Stewart, said his client was only doing what
many other Canadians do every year. He compared the nation's drug laws to
those of the U.S. alcohol prohibition laws of the 1920s and 1930s, adding
that millions of Canadians are "voting with their feet" to have the
He asked the judge to consider a conditional discharge, noting that no harm
was done by Smith's actions. That the incident occurred on university
grounds was simply an opportunity for Smith to appeal to the leaders of
tomorrow, Moore-Stewart said.
"These are people that feel, to a significant degree, oppressed by the
marijuana laws and are looking to change them," he told the judge. But
Judge Kay replied that while there may be serious debate around the
legalization of marijuana, the courts must interpret the laws as they
"He knew that what he was doing was illegal, and yet he continued to do so
on a regular basis," Kay said. "His behavior can only be described as
poking his finger in the eye of the law."
Despite both the Crown and defence recommendations, Kay imposed a fine that
she deemed significant for a man who's been unemployed for four years and
lives off the goodwill of others.
Outside the courthouse, Smith's lawyer called the judgment "a retrograde
decision" and confirmed an appeal will be filed in the next 30 days.
"It's a worrisome case -- just the fact that sharing five joints among 50
people results in a trafficking conviction for no monetary gain
whatsoever," he said.
"There are literally millions of Canadians doing this every year. It's an
increase in the severity of penalties at a point in time when society is
moving toward the decriminalization of marijuana."
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