With recreational cannabis now legalized, stakeholders across the country are preparing for the transformations to come. Judges, too, are anticipating how legalization of marijuana may play out in their courtrooms.
“Please don’t smoke pot,” Quebec Superior Court Justice Hélène Di Salvo reportedly told the jury hearing the trial of Sébastien Grenon. Grenon is charged with conspiring to kill Benoît Denis and for the first-degree murder of Denis. These charges have not yet been proven in court.
While Justice Di Salvo asked the jury to refrain from cannabis use during the trial, she also pondered the possibility of issuing a ban on jurist cannabis use during jury deliberation. “It is a new reality we are facing,” Justice Di Salvo explained.
In her explanation, Justice Di Salvo reportedly made references to the parallels between cannabis and alcohol. Justice Di Salvo suggested that consuming cannabis would likely become something similar to drinking alcohol. Jurors are expected to not arrive at court or hear evidence while drunk or hungover. However, Justice Di Salvo conceded that jurors are allowed to have a glass of wine during their deliberations.
The use of alcohol by jurors while on jury duty has been a subject that courts have had to grapple with. In the 2017 case of R. v. Zvolensky, the Ontario Court of Appeal had to decide whether the conduct of jurors caused a miscarriage of justice. Arguments on appeal included the alcohol consumption by jurors at dinner and after dinner during the trial. While some jurors had consumed upwards of 4 drinks the night before hearing arguments, the court stated that, where there is no evidence that a juror’s ability to do their job has been impaired by alcohol, consumption of alcohol by a juror with or after dinner is no basis to set aside a verdict.
The fact that jurors are permitted to engage in limited alcohol consumption during jury duties would therefore stand in juxtaposition to a ban on jurors’ cannabis use.