Changes to law could have severe impact on offenders

Darrell Cole
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Stiffer sentences could catch wrong people in mix

An Amherst defence lawyer is concerned with changes to the Safer Streets and Communities Act.

AMHERST – An Amherst defence lawyer is concerned with how pending changes to the Safer Streets and Communities Act could impact offenders.

Jim O’Neil is concerned the public may not be aware of the severity of some of the proposed sanctions.

The legislation takes effect Nov. 20.

“For example, a conviction for the cultivation for as little as six marijuana plants for the purpose of trafficking will attract a minimum six-month jail term,” O’Neil said. “Because of other changes to the law, that jail term cannot be served conditionally in the community but must be served in prison.

He said trafficking condition will not help all people. He said a recent case in Cumberland County involving an elderly man who grew some marijuana plants because it was the only thing that seemed to help his wife’s chronic pain.

“Under the definition of trafficking, passing the drug from one person to another, even though money is not involved, is trafficking,” O’Neil said. “Therefore, even though he produced about 10 plants or so a year, he would’ve been imprisoned for six months, rather than the term of probation he actually received. In that case, the media reported that the judge was compassionate, but compassion will no longer have any role in the courtroom when it comes to this particular offence.”

To make matters worse, O’Neil said the federal government has issued a directive that federal Crown attorneys are not permitted to replace a cultivation charge with one that does not have a minimum jail sentence, such as simple possession of marijuana. They will require departmental approval.

“The common discussion among lawyers was that the Crown attorneys would act compassionately and reduced the charge to simple possession where a clearly minimum sentence would be overkill,” he said. “Again, compassion and common sense would have no place in the plea bargaining process.”

As a result, O’Neil expects most offenders will avail themselves to their right to trail and put the Crown to the strict proof since there will be no benefit whatsoever or leniency possible on a guilty plea.

O’Neil said people need to understand that trafficking in or near a school, on or near school property or near any other public place usually frequented by people under age 18 will attract a two-year minimum jail term. There would be no conditional house arrest, but would have to be served in prison.

“Certainly no one would have sympathy for a drug trafficker selling to school children, however, remember that money does not have to change hands. This means that a student who provides a joint to a friend is trafficking and would be caught with a minimum mandatory two-year prison term.”

The wording of the statute, he said, is broad enough to include most areas youth congregate.

He said parents need to talk to their children about the law and the risks of sharing marijuana near these areas.

“Make no mistake about it, if the youth is over 18, two years in prison will result from a conviction,” he said.


Geographic location: AMHERST, Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • obeying the laws
    October 21, 2012 - 09:49

    THE LAWS ON MARIJUANA ARE WRONG....WRONG.....WRONG.... the govt hasn't focused on taxing the A** off people... yet and De-criminalizing.

  • the black and white of it
    October 20, 2012 - 07:46

    To JR......your black and white world??? to me that means narrow-mindedness. there is more in life than that. Does anyone remember the prohibition years. That was a sure black and white law. How did all that work out. I remember the rich were all offenders and what ever poor person who could get in on the boot-legging to make end meet... were offenders as well. ( OH! and can't forget about the Mafia ). Are we Canadians or are we just a version of Steven Harper's appendage to the USA. Higher fines to offset the cost of housing these offenders??? The only way that is going to work is if the law enforcement goes after the RICHER end of society who have all the money. THINK THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN??? They will get nothing from the lower end.....just more jail time. Maybe those who do not understand the whole aspect of medical-marijuana should go on a few web sites and expand they're minds a little more. There is a wealth of info to be had.... In My Opinion.

  • jr
    October 18, 2012 - 10:58

    I am not sure why everyone talks about the "tax dollars" but the way most (not all) of you are talking you would ahve every law changed so there were minimum penalties so what would be the sense of even having laws to begin with. If there is a law, then we as repectable citizens, are expected to abide by them. I think that is pretty much the black and white of it. I really don't think that a petty little fine is much a deterent so why not make the penaly a little more harsh and then maybe it will cut down even a little on the number of offenders which will then cut down on the cost of housing them for said period of time.

  • Anon
    October 17, 2012 - 17:06

    sounds like a great time to be buying shares in priv. prision stock ... $$$$$$$$$$

  • Buzz
    October 17, 2012 - 12:59

    We will have the highest Per capita spending on drug-related law enforcement in the world if this goes in affect next to the US. Nice knowing where your tax dollars are going. What a joke. just legalise it and than tax the ass off it and be done just like gas and tobacco!

  • jr
    October 17, 2012 - 09:37

    Well, to begin with, it is illegal to use drugs like these and if a person is caught one way or the other, then they are in violation of the law. If you start enforcing harsher sentences, then maybe people will become a little more educated and less likely to break said law. If a person shares with someone else, then they are in fact breaking the law. If someone broke into your home and stole something so they could buy the drugs, would that be ok if they got a slap on the wrist? No, it would not, so why be lenient on some law breakers and not others. As far as I am concerned, if you break the law, then you deserve the punishment becasue no one forced you to do it in the first place.

  • Appalled in Amherst
    October 16, 2012 - 21:25

    I must say that it seems our Government is taking steps backwards. This is a god given plant that has many medicinal uses. It doesnt cause people to beat each other up or have temper prloblems like alchol does. Yet our government still allows people to drink. Why because they have found a way to tax it and make money. When i read of sex offenders who get less jail time it really makes me shake my head and reminds me why i didnt vote for the Harper government. I cant wait to see the response when a child of Crown Attroney or one of our local police force get caught smoking or sharing with a friend. Our government cant provide affordable housing, timley health care, adquet nuitrion for all children or proper education but they can afford to build more jails for someone who happens to smoke a joint. These are times that i am actually embrassed to be Canadian.

  • Willie Wonka
    October 16, 2012 - 16:36

    As we should all realize--this is nothing but a MAKE WORK PROJECT for our judicial system---the Police, the Lawyers, the Jails and the Prisons. Gotta justify all those police officers don't we and all those new jails and pen cells. Beats dealing with real crimes doesn't it. All this while the food banks are crying for help.

  • amherst
    October 16, 2012 - 10:27

    Really? Can the law get anymore rediculous, people have always smoked pot and ppl will continue to do so. There are sexual offenders out there that get less time who emotional and physically harm people and are given a second chance? Its our tax dollars that house these ppl and they shouldn't be given a second chance. Prison time for smoking marajuana or growing it is beyong crazy.

  • confused
    October 16, 2012 - 09:29

    this is retarded there are so many people out there that live off of the thrill of hurting others yet they get a pat on the back and released. For example the town i am in had a person not that long ago charged with child porn, he was listed in the sex offender registry only had to serve 6 months and is now out running a bed and breakfast. Now can someone tell me how that can be allowed considering he has a young son of his own and is running a business where there are kids there overnight?

  • Jennifer
    October 16, 2012 - 08:53

    I'd like to see Crown Attorney, Bruce Baxter's comments on this article and the new Safer Streets and Communtiies Act. Tomorrow's edition of the Daily News perhaps?

  • Nichole
    October 16, 2012 - 08:11

    This right here has got to be the biggest , most ridiculas solution ! WOW , I can't wait for one of there children to get caught for smoking a joint with a friend n serve 2 years in prsion ! Marijunana doesn't kill people , booze does , harsher drugs do too. People need to get there priorities straight !! I'm absolulty discusted !

    • Nicole
      October 16, 2012 - 13:11

      Pay attention to the article......This means if you get a sentence of 6 months you spend it in the County lock up not "prison" and not in the community. And learn how to spell or did pot kill to many brain cells?

  • Bob
    October 16, 2012 - 07:48

    Imagine!!!!! Pedophiles get just months in jail and are released even though they WILL reoffend! And someone uses a little pot gets raked over the coals! Way to go Canada another FAIL!

  • Kimberlie
    October 16, 2012 - 07:40

    Yes, the law may have a severe impact on offenders BUT if there are actual repurcussions for breaking the law instead of a slap on the wrist, perhaps there wouldn't be as much crime. Plus this type of law could very well cause Marijuana to be made legal, if people get "cards" to use it for health purposes why is it illegal? Just an opinion

  • Juanita
    October 16, 2012 - 06:19

    I cannot believe that the government is worried about a few pot plants instead of worrying about sex offenders or women beaters, or people of sell more harsher drugs , they always seem to put the wrong things first. The heavier drugs need to have harsher penalties considering these drugs are causing much bigger problems for people, families and the community!

  • anon
    October 15, 2012 - 22:45

    and always pay your taxes on time ......

  • John
    October 15, 2012 - 21:48

    Jail terms should be served in jail, not in the community. Its refreshing to see criminals be held accountable and get what they deserve. If you break the law you should go to jail. This is a step in the right direction.

    • robert meisner
      October 16, 2012 - 10:10

      I hope everyone that likes this has deep pockets to pay ,pay and pay again for Harpo's crap!!!