Article by Terry Bridge, Sarnia Observer
A 60-year-old man with $50,000 worth of weed and cannabis products in his SUV was “extremely” nervous when police pulled him over in a First Nation community near Sarnia.
“To the point his upper dentures had fallen out,” assistant federal prosecutor Brian Higgins said Monday in a Sarnia courtroom.
Partially toothless, Clifford Warriner asked Anishinabek police in Kettle Point that Tuesday afternoon more than a year ago if he was going to jail. Fourteen months later, he finally got his answer: No. After pleading guilty Monday to one charge of possession for the purpose of selling under the Cannabis Act, he was sentenced to a $1,500 fine.
The money-based penalty was imposed in part because Warriner, a lifelong tobacco and marijuana farmer, wasn’t selling it on the streets. Instead, he was making sales calls to First Nations dispensaries throughout Southwestern Ontario – which is still illegal, but Warriner wasn’t aware of this, defence lawyer Vince Mazza explained.
“There was no malice or bad intention, just a very poor understanding of the law, which he is embarrassed for,” the London-based lawyer said. “I certainly recognize that ignorance of the law is not an excuse or justification or defence, but I think it provides some context as to what happened here.”
Justice Krista Lynn Leszczynski said she “appreciates” the explanation and imposed the fine both lawyers suggested. The judge, however, also pointed out a person who works in the industry should’ve known what he did was illegal.
“For that reason, it makes it difficult, frankly, on some level to accept that you would have no understanding that your conduct in these circumstances was wrong and unlawful,” Leszczynski said.
Mazza added Warriner, who declined a chance to speak to the court, is “embarrassed and remorseful.”
Warriner was caught on Feb. 18, 2020. Police saw him holding a large cardboard box while he was speaking to the owner of a local dispensary and pulled over the 2011 black Land Rover he was driving on West Ipperwash Road.
Warriner opened the rear hatch and explained to police he had about 2.7 kilograms of marijuana, along with a large amount of CBD oils, lotions and bath bombs, and more than $1,100 in cash from previous sales, the court heard.
“He also indicated he thought it was legal to sell cannabis products to First Nations cannabis dispensaries,” Higgins said.
After his mid-afternoon arrest, the officers found around five kilograms of dried cannabis in vacuum-sealed packages, 2,000 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes, 145 glass containers of CBD drops, 33 bath bombs, three vials of oils, and half a gram of hash.
The total haul was worth about $50,000.
Mazza said his client, who uses cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes, often accepted products as payment while working for greenhouses in the industry.
“He’s done this for years,” he said. “I think that explains in part how he’s able to amass such large quantities and such a variety of products.”