A Kamloops case in which a compassion club activist hopes to challenge the constitutionality of Canada's medical marijuana law took a fresh turn Monday.
Carl Anderson will return to court May 17 to face a new charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking after Crown stayed the original charge.
Anderson intends to plead not guilty to the lesser charge of possessing under three kilograms of marijuana. He would have done the same with the original charge of possessing more than three kilograms, a charge laid after his Tranquille Road storefront was searched by RCMP last fall.
Anderson's lawyer, Shawn Buckley, said he can only speculate on the reason for the change, though he believes it is intended to thwart a challenge to the constitutionality of the charge. The police seized more than three kilograms, he noted.
"The Crown appears to be crowding us into provincial court and it takes away our right to a juried trial," Buckley said at a media conference held outside the Law Courts on Monday.
"Ask most defence counsels and it would be a given to be in Supreme Court, particularly when you're challenging constitutional validity."
Buckley pointed to Friday's B.C. Supreme Court decision, which ruled that Health Canada's regulations breach the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by requiring that marijuana for medical purposes be smoked. That finding arose from a constitutional challenge brought by the head baker of the Compassion Club of Canada.
Anderson applauded Friday's ruling, which means that compassion clubs can now sell marijuana in baked or tinctured form.
"Canadians are split over this issue," Buckley said. "The people are saying, 'We want our peers to decide.' "
A key defence argument is that the regulations force compassion club customers into dangerous situations. The product they obtain from the clubs is claimed to be free from mould and bacteria. The same is not considered of marijuana obtained illegally.
"AIDS patients come to mind," Buckley said.
John Louvros, an AIDS and hepatitis C patient who was obtaining medical marijuana from Anderson, spoke to that issue. He was among a half dozen former customers who lent moral support to Anderson outside the courthouse.
Louvros, who appeared gaunt and pale, said he's lost 25 pounds since losing his supply because the marijuana helped him ingest food and eased the side effects of his medications.
"I've been licensed for 24 years by the government because I was sick," he said, adding that he is now too sick to grow it on his own and resides at Bedford Manor.
Anderson is also seeking the return of the seized pot and his equipment, including a computer, scales and gas chromatograph, which were also seized during the investigation.
"I've always been open, transparent and honest," he said of the latest turn of events. "I would hope I'll be extended the same courtesy by government."
If the case sounds familiar, it's because Anderson's home was raided a couple of years ago when police suspected he was growing marijuana commercially. No charges were laid since he hadn't exceeded the terms of his medical marijuana permit.
"The law is not just, so how can you go about abiding by it?" he asked on Monday.
© Kamloops Daily News