HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medical Pot Viewed As Community Issue
Pubdate: Tue, 27 Jul 2004
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Times Colonist
Author: Richard Watts, Times Colonist
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Judge Hands Six-Month Sentence to Ailing Man Who Started a Grow-Op

Disease, and a wife undergoing chemotherapy, saw a Saanich man turn to
marijuana as medicine. Lack of money saw him begin a grow operation.

And on Monday, in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria, the criminal justice
system made a half-hearted effort to make him stop.

Alvin Passenger, 51, pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled
substance for the purpose of trafficking.

He received a sentence of six months, to be served in the community,
with a 7 p.m.-to-7 a.m. curfew and other conditions.

One of the conditions will allow Passenger to possess up to two ounces
of marijuana at a time for his own use.

In bringing down the sentence, Justice David Vickers took a small shot
at society.

"We seem to be content" said Vickers, to let the criminal justice deal
with an issue that would be more effectively addressed with a
community medical program. "This is another one of those cases where
the medical issues have become enmeshed with the criminal justice
system," said Vickers.

Court heard that Passenger has hepatitis C and is a drug addict taking

His wife was also a drug addict on methadone who decided to try
chemotherapy treatment to deal with her own hepatitis C.

Passenger told the court he and his wife couldn't afford the
high-quality marijuana they needed to cope with their diseases and the
chemotherapy side effects.

That led them to allow an acquaintance to set up a grow operation in
their home. Passenger and his wife were to get enough marijuana for
themselves and the acquaintance took all the rest.

But Saanich police busted their home on Cedar Hill Cross Road on June
28, 2002, seizing, court heard, plants and equipment worth anywhere
from $32,000 to $62,000.

The bust ended the grow operation.

On Dec. 14, 2002, Passenger's wife died of a drug overdose.

"I was just trying to help my wife through a really tough time,"
Passenger told the court.

"If we would have had enough money, we never would have got into this
little enterprise," he said.

Prosecutor Brian Jones said society is now facing an "epidemic" of
basement marijuana grow operations. A common court defence sees people
on charges pinning ownership of grow operations elsewhere.

"That's a common thread that runs through some of these cases -- 'It
was somebody else,'" said Jones.

Defence lawyer Jim Heller asked for a probationary sentence, saying
his client's grow operation was a small one that never made money for
his client.

"This is clearly an offence that was inspired by no more than the need
for medical assistance," Heller said outside the courtroom. 
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