Pubdate: Tue, 21 Sep 2004
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2004 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


A man caught with enough pot to feed a joint-a-day habit for more than
a decade is arguing he shouldn't have a criminal record.

Defence counsel for Branden Bouquot, 28, said in court Monday morning
that given his efforts over the past year -- he's quit smoking
marijuana and is working toward becoming a journeyman carpenter --
Bouquot should get a conditional discharge.

At the end of the two-year probation term suggested by lawyer Lynn
MacDiarmid, Bouquot wouldn't have a criminal record if he didn't
breach any of his conditions.

The defence argued the longer probationary term would be more punitive
than the community jail and probation term, totalling one year,
offered by the Crown.

She said that while a discharge for a conviction on possession for the
purpose of trafficking is "a rather unusual disposition", she added
there are "extraordinary circumstances that I suggest warrant it in
this case."

Deputy territorial court Judge Jack McGivern, appearing Monday by
video from a Vancouver courtroom, said he'd need time to decide on a
sentence, but that it would either be a conditional sentence or a
conditional discharge.

The case will be back in court Oct. 5 for a decision.

Bouquot was arrested a year ago today after a patrolling Haines
Junction RCMP corporal pulled over the Chevrolet Blazer in which he
and two other young men were travelling north.

When the police officer opened a rear door to confiscate booze, some
of the two pounds of marijuana fell out into her hands, leading to
charges of possessing pot for the purpose of trafficking.

Bouquot was found guilty after a trial in June.

After a lengthy review of Yukon case law surrounding drugs and their
sale, prosecutor Kevin Drolet suggested Bouquot should have a
six-month jail term to his name, though he said the man could serve it
in the community under a conditional sentence.

During that review, the prosecutor quoted a 1982 case much-cited in
Yukon courtrooms. The presiding judge found that drugs have a more
profound impact on remote, northern communities, largely because the
areas are more difficult to police and there are fewer resources to
help individuals break out of addiction.

Reading from a brief statement, Bouquot said he is currently at a
"major crossroads" and since "this mistake," he's learned much and
reflected much.

Bouquot told the court that retired Yukon judge Barry Stuart, the same
judge who wrote the landmark 1982 decision, has agreed to donate a
week of his time to Bouquot's "support group", which will meet
regularly to make sure he's on track.

Also in that group of people from his community of Mt. Lorne are his
employer, school principal and close family friends who've known him
much of his life.

The young man has been working steadily in the carpentry business for
the last 10 months, and is enrolled in Yukon College's four-year
carpentry program, said MacDiarmid.

She produced a letter to the court from a local psychologist, who had
spoken with Bouquot and who wrote that the young man has agreed to up
to 10 more sessions with him.

Bouquot is described as someone who is "stuck at age 18" but who is
starting to question his own prior beliefs.

He's stopped smoking pot since his arrest, MacDiarmid said, and noted
that it's a significant lifestyle change for him as he was previously
"quite ingrained" in a lifestyle that involved marijuana.

The court heard the 28-year-old has many relatives living in the U.S.,
and is thinking about acquiring dual citizenship. While MacDiarmid
said a drug conviction would make travel and U.S. citizenship next to
impossible, Drolet countered that he'd consulted with customs
officials, and they'd reported it would not be unworkable.

MacDiarmid argued for the same conditions for the first six months of
probation as the Crown suggested for a conditional sentence, including
drug and alcohol treatment and 100 community service hours.

"It's no slap on the wrist," she said, adding that in the long run, a
rehabilitation sentence such as the one she suggested would protect
the public more than jail would.

Last September, the two pounds of marijuana were found in a garbage
bag in the SUV, divided further into nine other bags varying from
half-pound bags to one-ounce bags.

In Whitehorse, the drugs would be worth about $7,600, while they would
go for about $9,500 in the communities, said Drolet.

Considering that a joint, or marijuana cigarette, is rolled in
one-quarter gram portions, Bouquot's stash comes to 4,200 joints.

A mitigating factor for some offenders is if they only sell enough
drugs to pay for their own habit, said Drolet, adding that isn't the
case for Bouquot.

The fact he has significant support from friends and family, the fact
he's stopped smoking marijuana and his start on rehabilitation all go
to his favour, the prosecutor noted.

Drolet called the young man a knowing participant in a mid-sized
transport of drugs between jurisdictions.

When Cpl. Tickie Hayes opened the Blazer door and grabbed the tumbling
pot, Bouquot told her, "I guess you found my cache," according to the
judge's written decision.

Seated in the backseat with his two co-accused, Bouquot said, "That's
a product of my work. I sweated and sweated to produce it for people's
medicines. It's for herbal substances ... That's what I do for a
living. I harvest people's herbs."

He would later say he grew the pot on the Sunshine Coast of

Quoting the 17-year-old's comments in the back of the police car --
while the officer was in hearing range -- Drolet suggested Bouquot
wasn't in charge of the operation after the youth said, "The boss is
not going to be happy with you."

The youth co-accused is scheduled to be on trial in December, while
the other adult man arrested on pot charges is set to be in court tomorrow.
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