Possession of a “significant amount” of ganja put Robert Marvin Johnson, 66, in danger of a prison sentence when he appeared in Summary Court on Monday.
But, Magistrate Valdis Foldats asked, “Do we put a mature man back in jail again?”
The magistrate balanced the positive and negative features of the case after facts were outlined by Crown counsel Greg Walcolm.
Mr. Walcolm told the court that police officers went to Johnson’s property in East End on June 1 and saw a white container where a dog was tied. The container contained two smaller containers, one with .074 of a gram of ganja, and the other with 321 grams, or 11.3 ounces of the illegal vegetable matter.
Johnson told the officers, “It’s mine. I have it. I smoke it.” The magistrate said it was a significant amount, but the Crown had not suggested Johnson had it with intent to supply.
In addition, Johnson pleaded guilty to possession and consumption the very first time he came to court, which was in August. He cooperated with the probation officer preparing a pre-sentence report. He tested positive several times but told the officer he was not interested in getting help; he said he would get himself clean.
On Monday, Johnson did test clean and the magistrate said that changed everything in terms of the sentencing options he had.
In this case, he would have said 12 months’ imprisonment because of the quantity of ganja and Johnson’s previous history. With a discount for the guilty plea, he made it eight months and suspended it. “A suspended sentence still sends a message to you and everybody else – if people break the law, they can be put in jail.”
- He warned that if Johnson committed another offense, the suspended sentence would be activated. He indicated his impression that Johnson would continue to “stay strong.” He also added a sting in the form of a $1,000 fine and $200 assessment of costs. “If you can afford over half a pound of ganja, you can afford a fine,” he told the defendant, but offered him time to pay.