Newsbrief: Ontario Court Clears Tokin' Motorist of DWI Charge 1/10/03

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In what could become a precedent-setting case, a Canadian provincial court has acquitted an eastern Ontario man of driving while impaired by marijuana. Cannabis activist and Health Canada-certified medical marijuana user Rick Reimer was caught driving joint-in-hand, but that wasn't enough to convince Justice Bruce McPhee that he was too high to drive safely.

Reimer, a retired lawyer who has multiple sclerosis, defended himself. He told the court he drove while smoking marijuana, but insisted it did not impair his driving ability. Among witnesses he called were several Ontario residents who testified that they, too, drove while or after smoking, again without impairment. Some witnesses even told the court that smoking made them better drivers.

In acquitting Reimer Wednesday, Justice McPhee said his decision did not mean that he could dismiss the notion that some people could be impaired by marijuana smoking, but given the lack of scientific evidence, he could not be sure "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Reimer had been impaired. McPhee said that he could not convict in the absence of scientific evidence -- none of which was offered by either side -- but also because he had never seen Reimer straight, which he never was during the trial.

"I know I'm not guilty, I'm innocent, and I hoped the court would see it this way and I'm glad it did," Reimer told reporters in Pembroke, Ontario, after his acquittal. "The most important thing, in my opinion, that the judge said is that this is an area that needs a lot more scientific study. It also, in my opinion, is an area that needs a lot more democratic debate."

The ruling stands in stark contrast with a current campaign led by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy to have states nationwide enact "drugged driving" laws that would allow drivers to be convicted of DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) based not on any evidence of actual impairment but on the presence of even miniscule amounts of cannabis metabolites (

Crown prosecutors pronounced themselves satisfied with the verdict and have not decided whether to appeal, they said after the acquittal.

I'm very happy," Reimer said outside court, firing up a half-smoked joint. I'm feeling the euphoria that I used to get out of marijuana."

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Issue #271, 1/10/03 The Road to Mérida: Interviews with Participants in the "Out from the Shadows" Campaign | The Road to Mérida: Interview with Mario Menéndez, Publisher of !Por Esto!, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | The Road to Mérida: Dr. Jaime Malamud-Goti, former Argentine Solicitor General | Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 15-Dec Febrero, Mérida, México | Canada Cannabis Conundrum Continued: Government Will Appeal Ontario Ruling, Prosecutors to Put Possession Cases on Hold | Newsbrief: Eyeing Stiffer Meth Penalties in West Virginia | Newsbrief: First Local Salvia Divinorum Ordinance Proposed | Newsbrief: Huffington SUV-Terrorism Ad Parodies Drug Czar's Drug-Terrorism Campaign | Newsbrief: Corrupt Cops of the Week | Newsbrief: Ontario Court Clears Tokin' Motorist of DWI Charge | Newsbrief: Massachusetts Cops Slow to Act on Racial Profiling Law | Newsbrief: New Jersey Seeks to Delay Ban on Asset Forfeiture, Will Appeal Ruling | Newsbrief: Federal Court Ruling on No-Knock Search Raises Questions About Standard Procedure in Kansas City | Web Scan: Maia Szalavitz in Slate, GAO on Colombia Coca, Globe and Mail on Ontario Marijuana Ruling | DC Job Opportunity at DRCNet -- Campus Coordinator | The Reformer's Calendar

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