In response to Canada’s severely flawed medical marijuana system, Judge Donald Taliano found that prohibition itself was unconstitutional.
The drug war has long made a mockery of the American Justice System. In Canada however, the Justice System is making a mockery of the War on Drugs. Canada has had a system of medical marijuana in place for several years. On April 12 of 2011, Judge Donald Taliano of Ontario heard the case of R. v. Mernagh. Matt Mernagh is a Canadian medical marijuana patient who has been treating his fibromyalgia and seizures for years. Unfortunately he was unable to find a doctor who was willing to sign the paperwork to allow him to legally use marijuana. The police then raided Matt’s house and seized all the plants he was growing for his own use and charged him for growing without a license.
When Judge Donald Taliano heard the case, he was not impressed with the government’s argument. Judge Taliano said that the road to becoming a legal medical marijuana user is overcomplicated to the point of impossibility. In his decision he said, “seriously ill persons who need marijuana to treat their symptoms are forced to choose between their health and their liberty.” Taliano ruled the government had failed to comply with a 2000 ruling stating they must create a system which enables medical patients to receive their medication safely and efficiently. Judge Taliano struck down all prohibitions against marijuana possession and cultivation, then he gave the government 90 days to correct the situation. The judge also gave Matt the same 90-day window, until the government responds, to grow and use his own marijuana. One Canadian pot activist summarized the situation, “if the government is not successful upon appeal, they are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place. They don’t have an alternative program in mind and they don’t have a plan B. They are in trouble.”
It is doubtful that the Canadian government will fail to meet the 90 day deadline, but this is still a huge victory for medical marijuana patients. Canada seems to always be a few years ahead of the United States on social issues. During alcohol prohibition, it was Canadian whiskey that fueled much of the “Speak Easys” in the northern United States. With Canada facing the reality of possible legalization, it is unknown if this means such a measure could be close behind in the United States. In the meantime, Ontario could be the next Amsterdam.