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SENTENCING - Possession for the purpose of selling, trafficking, distributing or exporting - Cannabis - Suspended sentence

Thursday, March 11, 2021 @ 6:04 AM  

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Appeal by the Crown from a suspended sentence received by the accused, Murphy, following a conviction for possession of cannabis for the purpose of trafficking. Police intercepted a suspicious parcel containing approximately 25 pounds of marijuana worth $70,000 to $225,000 based on the manner of resale. Following a controlled delivery to the parcel’s address, police arrested the accused leaving the residence with the parcel. The addressee advised police that the accused paid him to allow delivery of the parcel to his residence, with four or five prior deliveries having occurred. The accused advised police he was transporting the parcel to another location for somebody else. The accused, age 26, pleaded guilty to possession for the purpose of trafficking. He had no prior convictions. The Crown sought a custodial sentence of between 18 and 24 months. The defence sought a suspended sentence and probation. The sentencing judge granted a suspended sentence with two years’ probation. The judge cited the enactment of the Cannabis Act legalizing marijuana as the basis for departure from the judicially approved sentencing range. The Crown appealed.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. Consideration of the impact of the Cannabis Act on the appropriate sentence for the accused was not an error in principle. The Act reflected society’s values towards cannabis use. A key feature of the new legislation involved lesser maximum penalties for possession for the purpose of trafficking than had existed under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, reflecting a diminution in the objective seriousness of the equivalent offence. Removal of a conditional sentencing option left sentencing judges to choose between imprisonment where required by denunciation and deterrence, or a suspended sentence and probation where rehabilitation was the primary objective. The reasons reflected that the sentencing judge considered the required principles of sentencing and weighed all relevant factors in the exercise of his discretion in crafting an appropriate sentence. Although the sentence imposed was at the lower end of the range, it was within the range and was not demonstrably unfit. The sentence imposed was not so manifestly inadequate that it required justification based on the exceptional circumstances doctrine.

R. v. Murphy, [2021] N.J. No. 8, Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal, C.W. White, L.R. Hoegg and G.D. Butler JJ.A., January 8, 2021. Digest No. TLD-March82021007