NORML Canada: 2011 Year in Review

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In no particular order here are some of the 2011 events that shaped our organization…

May 2 election

On May 2, 2011 Stephen Harper seized control of the Canadian government. For years he had been trying to force the country into a myopic prison state, but from the seat of opposition and then minority government he was unable to. Everything changed May 2nd when Harper won his majority, and the “war on drugs” came home to Canada.

Surprise-Voting
[Photo: “Surprise! We are voting!” banner]

Bill C-10, the “omnibus” crime bill

NORML Canada has always advocated that tougher sentences are not the solution to the violence associated with the drug trade, they are the source. The endless demand creates a need for supply, and stiffer penalties favor the harder criminal element, who remain undeterred, and who have no qualms of resorting to violence to protect the obscene profits that prohibition creates.

Mandatory minimum sentences will put the public at further risk, forcing otherwise non violent, law abiding cannabis users to interact with the most unsavory criminal element.

The government has also not explained the costs of implementing mandatory minimum sentencing. These changes will cost taxpayers untold billions, the majority of these costs being borne by the provinces.

Bill C-10 passed in the House of Commons with very limited debate. It has since been moved to the Senate which will begin debating this ominous omnibus bill. We at NORML Canada will be
engaging with the Senate in an attempt to have C-10 sent back to the House of Commons for more thorough debate. [Bill C-10 homepage]

MMAR Proposed Changes

Health Canada began a consultation process with stakeholders to “improve” the current Marihuana Medicinal Access Regulation.

The proposed changes include the elimination of personal marijuana production licenses, replacing supply with large scale commercial operations. Mail or courier deliver would be the preferred method of distribution. Health Canada has not addressed the concerns of many patients regarding the cost of participating in such a scheme.

Many of the program’s chronically ill or pained Canadians suffer from
economic hardship as well as physical or mental challenges. Eliminating these licenses will force these people to either break the law or continue to grow (exposing them to Bill C-10’s mandatory minimums), or do without their medicine.

It is our hope at NORML Canada that Health Canada will consider the needs of these patients as they work to improve the current program.

2nd Annual Treating Yourself Medical Marijuana & Hemp Expo

Norml Canada Prairies Regional Director Keith Fagin attended the Expo and had this to say.

This year was much different then last year for Debbie and I and the expo as a whole. There was a huge improvement in the floor plan. Instead of being spread out over multiple floors everything was on one floor including the huge vapor lounge. There were more exhibitors, entertainment, attendees and information. There was the VIP dinner at the Convention
Centre, off site parties, and Skunk Magazine sponsored an awesome party where Kelly Christie and I ended up being coerced onto the stage to be included in part of the show.

The 3rd Annual Treating Yourself Medical Marijuana & Hemp Expo will once again be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. May 25- 27, 2012.

CannaMed Fair Vancouver B.C.
Courtesy of Calgary420.ca

The Canna MedFair in Vancouver B.C. was the event to get Debbie and I back out in the thick of the community and was just the thing we needed, spending time with good friends having good times.

When we arrived at the Vancouver Heritage Hall there was no way to miss it with the huge banner high up on the front of the building over the front entrance. Seeing old friends and meeting people in person for the first time
that we have know on-line and those that we admired and respected but had never met is always one of the highlights for me. Also be able to sample many different products produced by many different people is always a real good time.

The Tall Bothers entertained the crowd with music and comedy. International Hempology 101 Society organized a trivia game and had knowledgeable pro cannabis activists as contestants. These events are also a good place to learn of new ideas, products including what is and what is not working in social justice advocacy efforts. These networking opportunities are very important for our communities. So many benefits come from these types of events. We all need to put forth a strong effort to attend and support them in our local communities and across our great country.

1st Annual Prairie Medicinal Cannabis Cup Saskatoon Sask.

Three days of good times
with good people. There was one entry from Alberta, Serious Seeds AK 47 and it came in at 5th place in the competition. BC Bud Depot won first place with their God Bud which also won the first place Indica trophy at the High Times Cannabis Cup in 2004. Live entertainment, speakers, food and of course as always awesome like minded people enjoying their passion. The 3 day event was so successful the next Prairie Medicinal Cannabis Cup will be four days long and will be in September 2012.


Global Marijuana March / Toronto Freedom Festival

It looked for a while like organizers of the 2011 Toronto Freedom Festival would not be successful in getting the permits they required to take part in the Global Marijuana March event, however after some finesse, they pulled it off. Toronto Star reported 25,000 attendees, but from where I was sitting it sure seemed like
a lot more.

Norml-Banner-GMM2
[Photo: Global Marijuana March, Toronto]

Worldwide Marijuana March Alberta

There were 5 Worldwide Marijuana March events to be held in Alberta the first Saturday of May. Alberta is the only province in Canada to have multiple Worldwide Marijuana Marches for the third year in a row. Ontario and B.C. have been inspired by Alberta to have multiple provincial Worldwide Marijuana Marches in 2011 as well.


Ontario Superior Court rules against Religious Exemption

Justice Thea Herman ruled against members of Assembly of the Church of the Universe who claimed the CDSA restricted their religious rights. In her 66-page judgment, Herman agreed that laws against pot
possession — though not trafficking — limited the two men’s freedom of religion, but she nonetheless dismissed their motion.

Justice Taliano rules cannabis laws unconstitutional

In an April 12 ruling in the case of R. v. Mernagh, Ontario Superior Court Justice Taliano found that Canada’s “prohibitions against the possession and production of cannabis (marihuana) contained in sections 4 and 7 respectively of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” are “constitutionally invalid and of no force and effect”.

The Public Prosecution Office has filed an appeal stating “Taliano made critical errors in law by declaring the federal medical marijuana program unconstitutional.”

Mernagh’s lawyer, Paul Lewin, has said that he’s confident the decision will be upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal which will be hearing the case on March 5 and 6 2012.

Norml Canada salutes Matt
Mernagh and Paul Lewin for a battle well fought. We look forward to the ruling. Best of luck at the appeal!

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