A decision from the B.C. Supreme Court has found that mandatory minimum sentences for growing cannabis are “grossly disproportionate.”
In recent decision from Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon, the judge wrote that the previous Conservative government’s tough-on-crime sentencing legislation isn’t appropriate in all cases of cannabis production and violates Charter rights.
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives passed the new sentencing rules in 2012, requiring anyone growing between six and 200 cannabis plants to be put away for at least half a year.
Fenlon proposed there were many hypothetical exceptions where this type of punishment wasn’t warranted — such as a student or pain sufferer who have no intention to sell cannabis on the black market.
“A six-month mandatory jail sentence for a student or migraine sufferer in these circumstances without a prior criminal record would, in my view, be grossly disproportionate to the offence,” Fenlon wrote in her ruling. “Imposing that sentence on a 19-year-old student or a migraine sufferer who is growing six plants intending to share them with friends would, in my view, be abhorrent to most Canadians.”
Fenlon wrote that offenders of this nature would have received much lighter sentences before 2012, such as community service, but are now being sent to prison.
Fenlon said that the mandatory minimum law “casts its net too broadly and catches offenders and offences involving little moral fault and little or no danger to the public. The hypothetical offences do not amount to the ‘serious drug crimes.'”
The case in question looked at Keith Elliott, a man receiving room and board from a cannabis grow operator in exchange for maintaining 195 plants. While the operator was sentenced to six months after pleading guilty, Elliott argued it was unfair for his to share the same sentence.
The Liberals have said they will review mandatory minimum sentences after coming to office.