An Open Letter to Canadian Law Societies, Bar Associations, Judges and Lawyers on the Immoral Prohibition of Cannabis

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An Open Letter to Canadian Law Societies, Bar Associations, Judges and Lawyers on the Immoral Prohibition of Cannabis

The immoral prohibition of Cannabis brings disrepute to the administration of justice and undermines the rule of law


Perry Bulwer, March 18, 2013

I am a non-practicing member of The Law Society of British Columbia. On February 12, 2013, I submitted an open letter to the editor of The Advocate, a bi-monthly journal "Of interest to the lawyer and in the lawyer's interest" for British Columbia lawyers. I have copied the full letter below.

I expected my letter to be published in the next issue, which I received on March 14th. The editor declined to publish my letter for reasons unknown, which astounds me. There are no deadlines or other rules for letter submissions that I could find, such as word length (mine is 1000 words, others are just as long). While it is possible that the reason my letter was not published is because the editor received it too late, I cannot help but speculate that I am being silenced and censored because of the critical, radical position I take in my letter. 

Unknown to me, around the same time I was drafting my open letter, my former MP, Libby Davies (NDP) Vancouver East, was working on her own open letter related to the same subject of cannabis prohibition as my letter addresses. Shortly after I delivered mine to The Advocate, I was alerted to Libby's letter, which you can read in full at:

Here are some excerpts from Libby's open letter to the Federal Minister of Health, dated February 19, 2013:

Since its inception in 2001, I have written various Health Ministers on a number of occasions with concerns about the execution of Health Canada’s Marijuana Medical Access Program (MMAP). MMAP has been found unconstitutional by several courts, and has been criticized by medical professionals, law enforcement agencies, advocacy groups, and patients.

Most recently, in August 2011, I wrote to you with specific concerns regarding proposed changes to MMAP. Considerable evidence pointed to the fact that the Program was ineffective in many ways. In 2011, I posed several questions that needed to be addressed in the new regulations: ...

In addition, I have the following concerns: ...

In summary;

The new Program must be functional, accessible and fulfill its original purpose: ensuring that medical marijuana patients get timely access to high quality medical marijuana.

The proposed MMPR, I believe, does not fulfill this original purpose.

It will: further restrict access; will be more expensive for many patients who are already on low income and facing additional health costs; and the options for access for patients are severely restricted. 

The one group not mentioned with the others in that first paragraph as being critical of the MMAP is the legal profession, unless "advocacy groups" is intended to cover that profession, which I doubt. When it comes to criticizing the unjust and immoral cannabis prohibition laws and regulations, the legal profession is largely silent. Courts finding certain aspects of the MMAP or other cannabis prohibition laws to be unconstitutional is not the same as the legal profession, whether individuals or law societies and bar associations, criticizing what is in essence a decades long unjust war against citizens.

The Advocate recently became digitized and fully searchable through the Courthouse Library. I searched the terms 'cannabis' and 'marijuana', and there are very few hits. Considering that the war on cannabis users has been waged for many decades, has damaged lives, tied up the legal system with unjust prosecutions, and brought great disrepute to the administration of justice, I am surprised that this issue has not gained more attention on the pages of The Advocate over the years. There are some commentaries on various aspects of cannabis cases, but beyond that there is virtually no discussion of prohibition itself and the dreadful, costly damage it causes to individuals, the state, and the rule of law. On the other hand, every issue contains several pages devoted to one of the legal profession's favourite drugs, alcohol. (note: "one of")

There was one recent letter to the editor in The Advocate that touched on the subject of cannabis, but treated with some levity by the editor, who may or may not be the same editor who rejected my letter. In Volume 70 Part 1 January 2012 The Advocate, at page 139, it is revealed that a video of skits produced at a Canadian Bar Association convention in the 1960s, and viewed at a function in 2012 aroused protests from some attendees who complained that the depiction of "a group of lawyers [who] were pretending to smoke pot on the steps of the old courthouse, was felt to bring the administration of justice into disrepute." Some of the lawyers who appeared in those 1960s skits became judges who I assume at some point in their judgeship tried cannabis cases.

According to that anonymous letter to the editor of The Advocate, the lawyers who appeared as pot smokers in the skit were William Craig, Q.C., and George Cumming, Q.C., who later accepted appointments to the Supreme Court until elevated to the Court of Appeal. Another lawyer in that pot-smoking skit was A. Stewart McMorran, Q.C., "who at that time was chief prosecutor for the City of Vancouver (that being the punch line of the skit), and who also accepted an appointment to the Supreme Court. He served as Chief Judge in New Westminster and was instrumental in the building of its present courthouse." It is not clear if the letter writer, who admits to writing and appearing in some of skits also took part in the pot smoking one, but she or he did later become a bencher of The Law Society. Perhaps some see it as a good thing that these and other lawyers have a sense of humour about this issue, but their laughs make a mockery of the legal system and show the hypocrisy of the legal profession.

My rejected letter to The Advocate, on the other hand, takes a far more serious approach to the issue of the immoral, unjust laws prohibiting the personal production and use of cannabis, that have denied so many Canadians their inherent right to use this ancient, effective, safe medicine. In my opinion, it is not lawyers and judges acting in a skit that brings the administration of justice into disrepute, but lawyers and judges acting in courts of law to deny justice to citizens.

In my letter I denounce the hypocrisy of the legal profession, referencing the case of a tobacco smoking Appeal Court judge, and call on all judges and prosecutors to engage in a civil disobedience strike against cannabis prohibition by refusing to prosecute any more cannabis cases. Like I said, my letter contains harsh criticisms and I take a radical position, but my health and freedom are at stake. Some lawyers and judges may want to brush this off as a laughing matter, but for the many thousands of citizens suffering in similar situations as mine, this is a deadly serious matter. To illustrate, here is an excerpt from an email I recently received from a Canadian lawyer:

I am also caregiver to a terminally ill friend who [had] a massive brain haemorrhage. I found him a specialist neurologist who agreed to get him a medical cannabis prescription for his seizures. Thanks to the effectiveness of the cannabis on his brain malformation and seizure disorders, he is not only able to start removing harmful pharmaceuticals from his treatment, but he has pushed past all the prognoses for life expectancy. Sadly, he is besides himself with stress over the MMPR and his inability to afford his medication under the proposed commercial scheme and most importantly, the stress of the proposed changes is impacting his health.


That is an expression of the wide-spread sense of dread felt by thousands of seriously sick citizen's across Canada who rely on Cannabis. That is what I mean when I refer to Cannabis prohibition as not simply unjust, but immoral, and why Cannabis prohibition must be ended immediately. How many more citizens will needlessly suffer and die before justice is done?




Faith, Evidence and the Immoral Drug War

Pain, Poverty and Politics part 1: Abandoned by the medical system, threatened by the legal system, and ignored by the political system

Medical Cannabis: Cannabis Eases Many Diseases

The Failed War on Drugs: Prohibition does not Work - Politicians who support prohibition support organized crime