“The Times, they are a Changin”….. It’s quite a different political and cultural landscape since Marc Emery, the self stylized “Prince of Pot” was sentenced over four years ago in the United States for distribution of drugs – marijuana seeds. Colorado and Washington are two U.S. states that have beat Canada to the punch by recently decriminilzing cannabis. Both states have set up regulatory schemes for the legal distribution and consumption of marijuana to persons over the age of 21. It remains to be seen how these new freedoms will work out. Detractors suggest that the new laws will lead to an increase in motor vehicle accidents caused by intoxicated drivers. Others suggest that the laws will cause children and teenagers to consume marijuana in ever increasing amounts.
Clearly, the electors of Colorado and Washington have decided that it’s “high time” to end the prohibition and to make marijuana regulations that will control the distribution of a substance that is used by thousands of citizens without turning them into criminals. Is Canada far behind? Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is on record supporting legalization. The 56 year old Emery has vowed to support Trudeau in his bid to legalize pot once he is released from prison and is returned to Canada sometime next month.
Clearly, the Stephen Harper government does not support Justin Trudeau’s stance on Marijuana reforms.
As defence lawyers, we come across hundreds of cases where “the smell of burnt or vegetative marijuana” gives police the grounds to commence a search, often leading to drug charges or other criminal charges. Occasionally, these searches yield no evidence whatsoever, yet the suspect has been detained and, often, publicly embarassed. We wonder if part of the reason for keeping marijuana unlawful in Canada is that to legalize it would eliminate a very useful police tool – the power to detain and investigate people based on smell alone. We’ll be keeping a watchful eye on the actions of police in Colorado and Washington State with respect to this issue. Will U.S. courts allow police to search people based only on the smell of marijuana now that is a legal substance? These are indeed changing times.