The court appearance took all of two minutes. Our lawyer, who we first met ten minutes prior to the appearance, gave us the news before we walked into the courtroom.
“Okay, great news. I spoke to the prosecution, and they’re going to drop the charges. No guilty plea, nothing. You’ll be prompted to say your names for the record, then the prosecutor will take over. Follow me.”
We walked to the end of the hallway, each of us taking turns thanking the lawyer. The duty counsel, likely dealing with dozens of cases per day, all of which no doubt more complex than ours, downplayed his efforts to get us off.
“Don’t mention it,” he said, like the true class act that he was.
The courtroom was full of others awaiting their hearing in front of the three-judge panel. We took a seat in the empty back row, the smiles on our faces bright and unwavering, like we were just given that N64 on Christmas morning after a year of pleading and eating Brussels sprouts.
Our lawyer said a few words to the prosecutor before he came to say his final goodbye.
“You guys are good. They’ll ask for your names, then everything will be taken care of.”
A few moments later, they read out our case number. We went up to the front, stated our names clearly into the microphones, before the prosecutor said her piece.
The only words that registered were “insufficient” and “evidence,” which taken together and uttered in the same sentence is quite a treat to someone who doesn’t want their life ruined, or at least seriously inconvenienced, thanks to overzealous police officers.
They asked us if we had anything to say, but our joy rendered us incapable of speech. We exited the courtroom like Tupac, the instrumental of ‘Picture Me Rollin’ playing on blast in our mind’s sound system. We embraced one another in a group hug outside the doors. Our improbable run to a championship was complete, and champagne would undoubtedly be flowing in a half hour. Our harrowing, David versus Goliath tale would be enshrined in the annals of Ontario’s justice system, along with the other senseless cases that never should have made it as far as they did.
We danced and drank the day away. I left my buddy’s place around 4am on a bike that wasn’t mine, singing Jidenna’s ‘Classic Man’ along my journey home. The frigid October morning was surprisingly refreshing. After the result, it was hard to complain about anything, let alone the impending winter.
on me like a young OG, I’m a classic maaaan…”
They split us up into two police cruisers. I was in one of them with Asher, while Shawn was relegated to the other by his lonesome. The handcuffs forced me to jostle around in the backseat, unable to settle into a comfortable position for questioning.
Who would’ve thought that a tame, Labour Day weed session by a calm stream would lead to handcuffs. But alas, the hounds of justice never rest when such hardened criminals gallivant with impunity through the GTA streets.
“If you don’t tell me whose weed this is, each one of you will be charged.”
I wasn’t really in the mood to jeopardize friendships spanning decades over 1.4 grams of the finest OG kush available in Southern Ontario. And so, we danced.
“Have you been charged with a crime before?”
“No,” I said.
After a few moments on the computer, the officer chimed back in. “You’ve had multiple dealings with police. Incident in 2005, another one in 2006. Another in 2011. Why did you lie?!”
“I didn’t. You asked me if I had been charged with a crime. I’ve had tons of interactions with cops, but never been charged. Perhaps asking more specific questions would lead to greater clarity.”
My arrogant pedantry kept me entertained, and clearly infuriated the officer. He seemed content with charging us all, and l didn’t feel compelled to make the process any easier, considering Canada was about to elect a fellow intent on getting rid of the insanely idiotic criminal prohibition on cannabis.
He wrote us up, charging Asher and I with possession of a Schedule II substance. Shawn, as I found out later, asked why the cop in his cruiser wanted to ruin our lives over weed, before he too was promptly charged with possession. This wasn't really the answer that Shawn was hoping to get.
The officers graciously let us out of the cop cars after one and a half hours of futile questioning. We lined up as the lead officer freed us from our handcuffs, one by one.
“Ever been in handcuffs before?”
“Actually I have,” I said, as he inserted the key to free me from the shackles of justice.
“Yeah you know, when the cops come to your elementary school. They put you in handcuffs, letting you know how the rest of your life will play out.”
The officer, having grown weary of my retorts after the previous round of questioning, chose not to respond.
The officers drove off, and we wondered how this ordeal would play out.
We decided to go to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Newmarket the next day to understand what options were available to us. Asher was in pursuit of a professional certification, which would be jeopardized should the charges stick. Shawn, already having attained professional certification, was justifiably worried about his employment status. As a writer and malcontent, I was less concerned about the immediate impacts on my employment, but thought it important to rectify the matter nonetheless, if even to oblige my compatriots.
We wandered aimlessly from floor to floor, trying to navigate this imposing, Kafkaesque building for some answers. After finding none, we decided to go to the information centre.
We took a number and waited, watching as people caught up in the legal system fought with the attendants behind glass windows. The attendants, wielding no control over the cases, were blessed with the virtue of patience.
Our number was called, and we approached the glass with our tickets in hand.
“Hi, so we were charged with possession. We were wondering if we could learn about the process, and if there was any legal support we could get for this matter.”
The middle aged female attendant took our tickets and perused the online system.
“It doesn’t seem to be in the system. When did this happen?”
“Okay, that’s not going to be entered yet. It will take some time. What drugs were you charged with possessing?”
She attempted to contain her laughter, to no avail. “Legal support is provided for people dealing with serious cases. Just show up early on your court date, and speak to the duty counsel.”
We left Newmarket in limbo, unsure of what to expect in one month. We tried to think positively, but the uncertainty of our fate made it difficult.
The time, costs to the justice system, the effects on people’s lives, all to enforce a prohibition for a substance less harmful than cigarettes and alcohol, both which can be purchased around the corner. What was the point?
*Names of friends have been changed to protect their identities