Article by Katie May, Leaf News
A “class issue” could be emerging in the way post-legalization cannabis offences are prosecuted, a Winnipeg lawyer says.
“I have some concern that the application of the law will end up being a class issue, that certain people will be singled out for punishment under the penalty provisions in the Cannabis Act and other people will be hit with regulatory penalties,” defence lawyer Scott Paler said.
“I’m concerned that there may well be a double standard there.”
His client, a 31-year-old Winnipeg man, was sentenced to 10 months in jail Tuesday for what is likely the first cannabis possession conviction in Manitoba since the drug was legalized last fall.
Rodney Clayton Felix pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis for the purpose of distribution under the federal Cannabis Act, as well as a mischief charge. He was caught with 86.3 grams of cannabis, after he reacted angrily to being 15 cents short while he tried to make a purchase at a downtown Winnipeg mall on Nov. 9, 2018.
Felix wanted to buy a memory card at The Source at Portage Place and gave the cashier $10, but when he found out it cost a total of $10.15, Felix cursed and ripped a speaker off the store wall.
He was arrested and police searched his backpack, finding the marijuana packaged in dime bags, a folding knife, scale, grinder, more than one cellphone and other drug paraphernalia. He was on bail at the time, facing a drug charge that was eventually stayed under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The federal Crown prosecutor asked provincial court Judge Dale Schille to impose a 15-month jail sentence in light of Felix’s previous convictions for trafficking in marijuana and cocaine. Schille agreed jail time was necessary for Felix, saying “he is, any way you slice it, a drug dealer.”
But Paler asked for a fine.
“Those types of penalties should be reserved for people who are selling marijuana on a large scale on the black market or they’re selling marijuana to people who are underage. Those types of offences, in my view, are far more grievous than the type of scenario we’re talking about with Mr. Felix, who is absolutely the lowest of the low in terms of this type of offence,” he said in court.
Since there is no legal precedent for this type of case under the Cannabis Act, Paler presented Judge Schille with a copy of a Winnipeg Free Press story that reported some sellers at the Winnipeg stop of the HempFest Cannabis Expo were ticketed and fined for selling illegal edibles in February.