Matthew Mernagh says he’s on cloud nine now that a judge has ruled the marijuana laws he was charged with are unconstitutional.
The former St. Catharines activist and medical marijuana user was at the centre of an Ontaro Superiour Court case heard in St. Cathairnes in January, which stemmed from his arrest nearly three years ago for growing plants in his apartment downtown.
Reached Wednesday, a day after he first read the ruling in his Toronto lawyer’s office, Mernagh said he’s estatic and still getting over the shock.
“I was like ‘Oh my God. I got everything I asked for from the court,’” he said.
He explained he had no intention of pleading guilty to produciton of marijuana.
“We decided we would go all the way,” he said of he and lawyer Paul Lewin’s decision to fight the charge on constitutional grounds.
Justice Donald Taliano ruled that the country’s medical marijuana program is unconstitutional because doctors have for the most part refused to participate.
In his April 11 ruling, Taliano gave the government three months to repair the issue or face marijuana essentially being legalized.
Taliano found doctors have “massively boycotted” the program by not signing off on forms giving sick people access to necessary medication, meaning patients are resorting to illegal means.
In his ruling, he wrote that doctors’ unwillingness to participate undermines the program’s effectiveness.
“The effect of this blind delegation is that seriously ill people who need marijuana to treat their symptoms are branded criminals simply because they are unable to overcome the barriers to legal access put in place by the legislative scheme.”
The ruling covers more than medical marijuana, as Taliano also declared laws prohibiting possession and production of cannabis to be invalid.
The judge suspended the ruling for three months to give the federal government time to fix the program. If the issue isn’t resolved, the law will be overturned.
Mernagh said they brought 21 witnesses to the stand, patients from B.C. to P.E.I. who testified they were rejected by doctors.
He said the case involving attending court once a month for two years, followed by four months of preparation everyday in his lawyer’s office and 12 days of court.
It was worth it, he said.
“Our hard work has paid off,” he said.
Mernagh said he’d like to hear the government say they’ll work to fix the medical marijuana program, which he called a sham, but isn’t holding his breath.
“I’m sure they’re going to appeal,” he said.
If the ruling stands up to appeal, the government faces the legitimate possiblity of marijuana being decriminalized.
Lawyer and longtime activist of marijuana legalization Alan Young told The Toronto Star that the government will be caught between a rock and hard place if the ruling is upheld.
“They don’t have an alternative program in mind,” he told The Star. “They don’t have a plan B. They’re in trouble.”
Mernagh said that while he counts both medicinal and recreational users as friends, his main concern in this case is the medical marijuana program, and that he’d be perfectly happy if the issues surrounding it were resolved, allowing the marijuana law to stand.
Mernagh suffers from fibromyalgia, scoliosis, seizures and depression.
He was an early member of the Toronto Compassion Scoiety, which distributes medical marijuana, and founded a chapter in Niagara.
He also ran to represent the New Democrat Party for St. Catharines, but was not selected by the riding association.
He moved to Toronto shortly after he was arrest by Niagara Regional Police in 2008.
Wednesday has been a whirlwind day for Mernagh, as he’s been interviewed by several media outlets.
He said he continues to marijuana for medicinal reasons, and even lit up for the cameras.
“I just smoked one,” he said
via : Niagra this week
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