Article by Betsy Powell, The Toronto Star
Toronto lawyer Paul Lewin jokes that he has been “ranting and raving” about the evils of drug prohibition for years but no one, outside the cannabis community, paid much attention to what he had to say.
That changed after Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party came to power in 2015, promising to legalize marijuana. The government tabled the enabling legislation Thursday.
Since the Liberal win, Lewin’s client list has swelled both with would-be pot sellers looking for advice and people accused of criminal and bylaw offences after Toronto police raids targeting dispensaries. This fall, he will be in court fighting a forfeiture order injunction aimed at closing Canna Clinics, a B.C.-based company in the crosshairs of the city’s licensing division.
“It’s kind of exciting being involved in a lot of the action,” Lewin said this week sitting in the boardroom of his storefront office on The Danforth, east of Woodbine Ave.
Not all of the attention has been positive.
At a January news conference at police headquarters, Supt. Bryce Evans accused a Toronto defence lawyer — he didn’t identify Lewin by name — of being “misleading and unprofessional” for suggesting the crackdowns had made dispensaries sitting ducks for armed bandits.
“It was neither misleading nor unprofessional,” responds Lewin. “There is abundant peer-reviewed public health research that suggests prohibition creates lawless zones that breed violence.”
Lewin shares office space with Julie Sagara, a lawyer specializing in wills and estates. This is no white shoe firm. A black and white photo of a protester standing in front of a row of police officers in riot gear during the G20 summit hangs on the wall in the front waiting area. A pile of glossy Highway magazines sit piled up on a table. Lewin is a contributor.