Medical pot activist found guilty of trafficking says he helps the sick

Thursday, January 20, 2005

VICTORIA (CP) -- A medical marijuana activist who lit up several joints at a pro-marijuana rally at the University of Victoria in November 2000 was found guilty of trafficking Thursday and now faces a maximum of five years in jail.
Leon Edward (Ted) Smith, 35, who runs a medical marijuana buyers club out of a downtown Victoria bookstore, argued in B.C. provincial court that he is the victim of discrimination because he is a pot smoker and a political activist.
He told the court police and the Crown violated his rights to equality guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But provincial court judge Judith Kay disagreed with Smith's arguments, ruling that his rights and freedoms under the Constitution were not violated.
"I find that none of Smith's freedoms have been infringed," she said. "He was arrested not for his thoughts but for his actions."
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 2.
At the university rally, Smith could have expressed his opinions on the medical benefits of marijuana, but he chose to hand out joints, Kay said.
Smith spoke to about 40 people on the benefits of marijuana and his objections to the law prohibiting it. He then lit up several joints and passed them out to the crowd.
After the rally, plain-clothes officers who had stood in the crowd moved in and arrested Smith, a former Victoria mayoral candidate and Ontario rugby player.
"This was not a capricious, despotic or unlawful arrest," Kay said.
Smith was almost daring police to arrest him when he lit up the marijuana, she said.
"He was very publicly flouting the law," said Kay. "I find that his behaviour was intended to provoke a reaction from the authorities."
Smith failed to present convincing evidence during the trial that he required marijuana to treat his own sports injuries, alcoholism or depression, she said. The judge also rejected his arguments that he should be allowed to smoke pot as matter of freedom of choice.
"A society that extended constitutional protection to any and all lifestyles would be ungovernable," Kay said. "There is no free standing right to smoke marijuana for recreational purposes."
Outside court, Smith said he will try to appeal his conviction.
He said he was willing to fight Canada's marijuana laws on behalf of the many sick people who use marijuana to ease their illnesses.
Smith's buyers' club provides pot, including marijuana peanut butter cookies, to people who produce verification they are ill and could benefit from its relaxing and calming properties.
"I have no regrets about challenging this law," Smith said. "This has to be, as far as I'm concerned, the most illogical, irrational group of laws that this country has."
Earlier this month, Smith received a conditional discharge after he was charged with trafficking when police seized cookies and massage oil from his buyer's club that contained marijuana resin.
Marijuana trafficking charges against Smith relating to a police raid on his bookstore in 2002 were stayed earlier this month.


Dirk Meissner
© Canadian Press 2005