Article by Louise Dickson, Times Colonist
People who buy pot from medical marijuana dispensaries can still be charged criminally, even though the City of Victoria has implemented regulations for the storefronts, warns a local defence lawyer.
Last month, Chantelle Sutton represented a Victoria man who bought marijuana at a local dispensary in August 2015. After a brief trial, Leslie Ian Hall was convicted of possessing marijuana.
But Hall was handed an absolute discharge when the judge found Hall honestly believed he could legally buy marijuana with a doctor’s prescription and his membership with the Vancouver Island Compassion Society.
The court is sympathetic to the “current state of affairs where businesses may be acting contrary to the law and, in doing so, lull some customers into thinking they are acting according to law,” Victoria provincial court Judge Christine Lowe said at Hall’s sentencing on Sept. 16.
What Hall, 53, didn’t know is that the law requires individuals to apply to Health Canada for an exemption to possess medical marijuana.
“This case is a warning to people — even though the dispensaries appear to be operating a legal, legitimate business, it’s an individual’s responsibility to get the proper certification from Health Canada,” said Sutton.
“Judge Lowe’s decision shows ignorance of the law is not a defence, so, therefore, my client was guilty. But in the circumstances, she didn’t impose any punishment.”