Article by Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun
There goes another Harper tough-on-crime law out the judicial window. Because, of course, we wouldn’t want to be too hard on a woman farming 1,100 pot plants in the middle of a Jane St. highrise apartment building.
In a landmark ruling, an Ontario judge has struck down yet another of the former Conservative government’s mandatory minimum sentences as unconstitutional, this time the two-year minimum jail term — with an extra year for endangering public safety — for growing more than 500 marijuana plants.
In 2015, Hai Thi Pham was convicted of tending an elaborate commercial pot grow-up in a three-bedroom apartment at 2755 Jane St. Toronto Police found 1,110 plants being grown under 19 high pressure sodium lights connected to 20 ballasts that made them compatible with 1000 watt lightbulbs.
There were empty pots, hoses, three oscillating fans, venting equipment, carbon filters, five timer boards, and fertilizer inside the apartment. Black mold was seen on the walls and piles of dirt on the floor.
Drug officers estimated the value between $390,000 and $468,000 if dried and sold by the kilogram and more than $1.5 million if sold by the gram.
Pham’s lawyers argued the 45-year-old mother of two shouldn’t be sentenced to the mandatory minimum mandated in the 2012 amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. They challenged the law not because a three-year sentence would be “grossly disproportionate” in her particular case — they actually agreed it wouldn’t be — but because it could possibly affect other, less blameworthy offenders where it would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
Justice Michael Code agreed, striking down the law, and sentencing Pham instead to 10 months in jail.