POT TRIAL UP IN SMOKE
Every Wednesday at 4:20 p.m., dozens of UVic students gather near the
fountain to show support for sick people who struggle to treat their
conditions with medical marijuana.
While nearly all the students are healthy, UVic's Hempology 101 club
attracts attention by supporting the use of illegal drugs. During meetings,
members of the Cannabis Buyer's Club provide updates on current events
involving medicinal marijuana while dozens of students pass joints around a
The activist responsible for Hempology 101, one of the largest student
clubs at UVic, is Leon 'Ted' Smith, but Smith has not set foot on the
campus since Nov. 8, 2000. Smith was charged with possession and
trafficking, with evidence supplied by an undercover officer who had
pocketed one of the joints passed out during a Hempology 101 meeting. Since
then, Smith has been banned from campus. "They took my microphone and
speaker," he said.
Four years have passed, and a trial was set for last week to determine the
outcome of these charges. Hoping for an acquittal, Smith's victory would be
celebrated by nothing short of his triumphant march back onto university soil.
Instead, the trial has been delayed again until January 2005. Two different
trials were scheduled to take place at the same time with the same judge.
The final decision was to go forward with an alternate case that had been
waylaid for two years, as opposed to Smith's own trial, which had nearly
hit its four-year anniversary.
Smith remains positive, hoping that the delay of one his most difficult
trials will provide him better grounds to argue what he considers his
constitutional rights. Smith will be arguing Section 2 dealing with freedom
of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly and association, claiming to have
been singled out from the crowd because of his personal views. "If they
were going to charge me with trafficking, then everyone should have been
arrested," he said. Smith will also be arguing Section 7, which deals with
liberty and security, suggesting that the passing of joints happened
between consenting adults.
Smith is the founder of the Vancouver Island's Cannabis Buyer's Club, a
non-profit organization that provides medicinal marijuana to people with
chronic illnesses. The organization runs out of Ted's Books on Johnson
Street, where p
roof of illness and photo I.D. enable the purchase of
medicinal marijuana and the use of a smoking room.
Police raided Smith's store in 2002 up to six different times, resulting in
two different charges involving trafficking and possession. Two of the
seizures had been in response to robberies at the store. Two others had
been without warrants.
Judge Loretta F. Chaperon stayed these charges on Sept. 7 on the grounds
that the Cannabis Buyer's Club was doing the job the government was not
doing, namely providing a reliable supply of marijuana to those that need
it. The stay is expected to stick, making the ruling a victory for Smith on
Although there have been no additional arrests related to Hempology 101
since Smith's arrest, both Campus Security and Saanich police are aware of
In an interview last year, Chris Horsley, media relations officer for the
Saanich police, said, "The police department is still very concerned with
drug use on campus. Just because the police aren't showing up every week
doesn't mean we are agreeing to what is happening."
"We made our point by charging him," said Hunter McDonald, former director
of Campus Security Services in November 2003. According to McDonald, Campus
Security Services was waiting until the judicial system decides on Smith's
case before looking at future marijuana enforcement strategies.
This leaves only three charges with two separate trials to go. Despite the
delays and legal pitfalls, Hempology 101 has continued to increase in size.
"People used to be cautious about coming to meetings, but at one point last
year we were getting 120 people to our meetings, right in the middle of
campus," said Smith in March 2004.
If that wasn't evidence enough of a growing interest in the legalization of
marijuana, Smith speaks every Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the steps of the
courthouse about his rights to educate the public about medical marijuana
and his own recent trials. These meetings have yet to be broken up by the
Smith's next trial will involve a charge made in November 2000--a mere
seven days after his arrest on campus--in front of the Greater Victoria
Public Library where he was found distributing pot cookies for a 4:20 meeting.
The trial is scheduled for Nov. 8. Smith said he has every intention of
fighting for the long haul, right up to the Supreme Court itself, even if
it takes another 10 years.
"The war on drugs is the epitome of a much larger, older struggle than most
people realize. It is nothing less than a war on peace, a war on people,"
said Smith in his book, Hempology 101.