In recent article published in the Winnipeg Free Press a local defense lawyer has raised concerns about a double standard developing in the way post-legalization cannabis offences are prosecuted. The double standard he mentions involves whether a person selling illegal pot is prosecuted under the criminal code or non-criminal regulatory statutes.
Two Crimes – Two Different Outcomes
Paler’s client, Rodney Clayton Felix was arrested on Nov. 9, 2018 for a charge of mischief and found to have roughly 3 ounces packaged for sale. He was subsequently charged with possession of cannabis for the purpose of distribution under the federal Cannabis Act. He subsequently received a 10-month prison sentence.
In contrast to this incident, this past February, Manitoba’s cannabis regulators seized about $34,000 worth of illegal products from vendors at Winnipeg’s HempFest Cannabis Expo . The products seized included 4,992 THC infused gummy candies and 1,371 grams of dried cannabis. Subsequently the two vendors each received a ticket worth $2,542 for unauthorized sale of cannabis. The tickets were issued by inspectors from the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) which are Manitoba’s cannabis regulators. Oddly enough, the inspectors didn’t call police.
“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.
The Double Standard
On one hand we have an unlicensed individual selling a few ounces of weed out of a backpack going to jail for 10 months. On the other hand, we have licensed vendors illegally selling an enormous quantity of edibles and dried cannabis receiving a relatively small fine. It appears that there are indeed now two classes with two very different punishments.
“Bootlegging alcohol or selling black market cigarettes tend to end up with a financial penalty, but the perspective on marijuana is apparently much different.” Scott Paler
Do you think having criminal penalties and regulatory penalties for what is essentially the same offense, fair? Let us know in the comments below.