By Alfa · Feb 7, 2005 ·
  1. Alfa

    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
    small crowd.

    "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
    legislation changed.

    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
    currently exist.

    "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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