Thursday, September 30, 2004

Convicted killer says marijuana made him do it News Staff

In a case that's rekindling the debate over the effects of smoking marijuana, a Quebec man has had his murder sentence reduced -- because he was under the influence of marijuana at the time.
Described as a life-long substance abuser, 31-year-old Martin Veilleux had been on a marijuana binge when he stabbed his good friend, for no apparent reason, in March of last year.
He was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday, after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter.
During the trial, two psychiatrists testified that modern strains of marijuana are so potent they can cause psychosis.
Pot smoked today, they said, contains up to 10 times the amount of the active ingredient THC than typical marijuana did 30 years ago.
Defence lawyer Normand Boudreau says those numbers mean it's no longer appropriate to call pot a "soft drug."
One of Canada's most outspoken marijuana advocates disagrees. Boris St-Maurice acknowledges the drug isn't for everyone, but he believes legalization would allow for better control.
"It's not stronger," he told CTV's Montreal affiliate. "It's just easier to find, and that's the result of prohibition where criminals will go for the most concentrated product to get more bang for the buck."
Far from excusing the crime trial judge Gilles Hebert says the arguments in the case should serve as a wake-up call.
"What words can we use to warn people about the unpredictability of marijuana or other drugs, when we don't know what's in it, or what level of THC is included," Hebert wrote in his decision.
"As a judge, I worry about the open acceptance and widespread availability of drugs."