Activist in landmark R. v. Parker cannabis ruling runs in Canadian federal election

Terrance “Terry” Parker successfully argued that prohibition violated his Charter rights.

Terrance “Terry” Parker is the Marijuana Party of Canada’s candidate in the Ontario riding of Parkdale–High Park.


More than 20 years ago, a Toronto man successfully argued in court that the prohibition on cannabis violated his Charter rights to life, liberty, and security.

That person was Terrance “Terry” Parker.

Parker’s victory constituted a major blow against prohibition in Canada.

It laid a path toward access to medical cannabis, and eventually, legalization of recreational pot.

The landmark case could also chart a direction in the push to legalize psychedelics for treatment of various health disorders.

These days, Parker is busy with his campaign to represent voters in the Ontario riding of Parkdale–High Park in the House of Commons.

Parker is carrying the banner of the Marijuana Party of Canada in the September 20 election.

As the activist noted to CannCentral, it’s the eighth time he is running as a federal candidate.

Parker stated that he has been doing this to honour his “marijuana constitutional decision”.

As a young child, Parker suffered from a severe form of epilepsy.

Surgery and conventional medication failed to treat his condition.

However, Parker discovered that smoking cannabis reduced the incidence of seizures.

As there was no legal source of cannabis, he decided to grow it himself.

Then the police came and seized his plants, and Parker found himself charged with violating the law.

Parker fought the charges.

He argued that the prohibition on the cultivation and possession of cannabis violated his rights to life, liberty and security of person as guaranteed by Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

On December 10, 1997, Judge Patrick Sheppard of the Ontario Court of Justice found Parker not guilty.

Sheppard ruled that Parker needs cannabis to control his epilepsy, and the prohibition contravenes his rights under Section 7 of the Charter.

The federal government appealed.

On July 31, 2000, a three-judge-panel with the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the prohibition was unconstitutional.

In a summary of judgment, Justice Marc Rosenberg wrote that the trial judge was “right in finding that Parker needs marihuana to control the symptoms of his epilepsy”.

“I have also concluded that the prohibition on the cultivation and possession of marihuana is unconstitutional,” Rosenberg stated.

The appeal court judge also noted that “forcing Parker to choose between his health and imprisonment violates his right to liberty and security of the person”.

“I have also found that these violations of Parker’s rights do not accord with the principles of fundamental justice,” Rosenberg wrote.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo

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