Pubdate: Fri, 22 Sep 2017
Source: Chatham Daily News, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Chatham Daily News
Author: Ellwood Shreve
Page: A1


Convicted Chatham man may have qualified for conditional sentence if
legislation hadn't changed

Steven Wheeler will serve a sixmonth jail sentence for being in
possession of 11.2 kilograms - 24 pounds of marijuana - for the
purpose of trafficking.

However, the support received by his employer along with family and
friends may have enabled him to serve a conditional sentence - house
arrest - if changes had not been brought in under Bill C-10, in March
2012, to limit when the court can impose conditional sentences.

Ontario Court of Justice Gerri Wong handed down the sentence to
Wheeler in a Chatham court on Thursday, but also had words of
encouragement for the 30-yearold Chatham man.

She gave Wheeler credit for pleading guilty and being remorseful for
his actions. She also noted the tremendous support shown by his
supporters, including the fact his employer took the time to come to
court to speak about his character and dedication as an employee.

However, she noted the aggravating factors, including the amount of
marijuana seized along with scales and other paraphernalia that
indicated the pot was being sold, required a sentence that provided a

"I have every confidence that I will never see you again under these
circumstances," Wong told Wheeler.

Wheeler was arrested in January 2015, along with Tasha Holland, after
Chatham-Kent police seized about $166,000 worth of cannabis marijuana
from a Delaware Avenue property, along with $3,165 cash and nearly
$500 in U.S. currency.

The charges were dropped against Holland on Thursday.

Wheeler's lawyer Frank Retar said it was an appropriate

He doesn't believe the impending legalization of marijuana had any
impact on the outcome of this case.

"We might be legislating lawful, small amounts of possession (of
marijuana), but to be in possession of 24 pounds, it's criminal;
you're going to go to jail if you're in fact arrested in Chatham-Kent
with 24 pounds of marijuana," Retar said.

However, he noted prior to his client being arrested, the justice
system allowed for conditional sentences, such as house arrest, in
such cases that Wheeler pleaded guilty to.

Retar said they had initially wanted to challenge the legislation that
prohibits Wheeler from receiving a conditional sentence.

He knew the legislation had already been challenged in British
Columbia and Saskatchewan, and in both cases was found to be
constitutional. However, he didn't know if had been challenged in
Ontario, yet.

But, when Retar later learned the legislation had been challenged
twice in the province, and was found to be lawful, he advised his
client it would not be prudent to proceed with another challenge.

He said his client "truly had transformed himself from the time of his
arrest in finding himself a full-time job" with his current employer.

Retar said Wheeler's employer raved to the court about the quality of
his work and dedication to the business.

He added 10 to 12 people have continuously attended the various court
proceedings as a show of support for Wheeler.
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