Volume 96, Issue 57
Friday, January 10, 2003

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Everybody must get stoned - then drive
Pembroke man wins court battle

By Chris Webden
Gazette Staff

Following a recent court decision, Nelly may not need to keep the L's confined to the back of his Benz any longer.

On Wednesday, Rick Reimer, a former lawyer and marijuana activist, was acquitted in Pembroke, Ontario of driving while impaired by marijuana, despite the fact that he continued to smoke his joint as police pulled his car over.

According to Justice Bruce McPhee, there was not enough evidence to prove that Reimer, a multiple sclerosis sufferer who is legally allowed to smoke pot, was impaired beyond a reasonable doubt.

Despite what many pot activists feel is a major win in the legal ring, not everyone is expecting this decision to go uncontested. The judge's decision can still be appealed, and even Reimer himself has stated he expects to see the case continue.

"I think it is important that people don't assume that they won't be convicted of impaired driving if they are caught smoking pot behind the wheel," said Robert Solomon, a Western law professor.

According to Solomon, under the Canadian Criminal Code, it is currently illegal to drive when impaired by either alcohol or drugs, but that in Reimer's case there was perhaps not enough evidence to prove his impairment. Because of Reimer's heavy use of the drug, there may be a certain level of habituation, and the level of impairment may be much more severe for individuals who do not smoke as often, he explained.

"A lot of alcoholics will swear under oath that they believe they can have 12 beers and drive perfectly safely when, in reality, that is not the case," Solomon said. "The difficulty is that you don't have any easy measure of drug impairment that is comparable to the blood alcohol test, but the conduct is still illegal if you are impaired."

Students around Western campus are both pleased and worried about Wednesday's decision, with supporters of both sides airing their opinions.

"You are not fully aware and you drive too slowly," said Joe Zerdin, a fourth-year economics and media, information, and technoculture student, adding a driver's reaction time is also affected when they smoke pot. "If a deer hopped on to the road, you would have already hit it by the time you remembered to go for the brakes," Zerdin said.

"I get high and drive all the time," said John MacNamara, a fourth-year economics and administrative and commercial studies student. "I am still fully aware of the things going on around me [when I smoke and drive]," MacNamara said, adding he believes his awareness is often heightened when he smokes marijuana.

Jamie Kupka, a third-year psychology student, had a slightly different opinion on the subject. "[After I smoke pot], I am more interested in a snack and a nap. I don't want to drive anywhere," he said.

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