Cannabis act sentencing begins in Winnipeg

A Winnipeg resident, Rodney Clayton Felix, 31, pled guilty on April 2 for possession of cannabis for the purpose of distributing under the federal Cannabis Act.

Rodney Felix was found with 85 grams of cannabis in Portage Place mall in November 2018 when electronics store staff called security after Felix broke a speaker when he was 15 cents short on a bill totalling $10.15. Security also found a folding knife, a scale, several cell phones and cannabis packaging materials in his possession.

Since the Cannabis Act came into effect recently, on October 17, 2018, Felix’ defense lawyer Scott Paler told the court he was unable to find any reported sentences in Canada to be used as precedent for his client’s charge. Although Paler was advocating a fine over jail time, Federal Crown attorney Alana Parashin has recommended a 15-month sentence for Felix.

Moreover, Felix pled guilty to a mischief charge related to the same incident, which resulted in a 60-day sentence in addition to a 10-month sentence received for cannabis possession.

Provincial court Judge Dale Schille said the charge under the Cannabis Act is different from trafficking charges before the act was passed, admitting the lack of existing precedent, stating “There really is a dearth of precedent at this point.” However, he also said that foregoing jail time would be “wholly inappropriate.”

“Regardless of the new legislative provisions that have come into effect under which he’s charged, he is, any way you slice it, a drug dealer,” Schille said.

Provincial court Judge Dale Schille

Earlier in March, the Manitoba government took action to combat the illicit cannabis market by proposing amendments to The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act in order to give more officials the power to crack down on illicit cannabis possession. The proposed changes would make it illegal to possess more than 30 grams of non-medical cannabis in a public space. Although similar federal restrictions exist, provincial inspectors cannot enforce these laws. Additional proposed changes would make it a criminal offense to possess cannabis which is not packaged, stamped and labelled in accordance with federal legislations.

In October 2018, Winnipeg had made the news for issuing the first ticket for smoking cannabis in a car one hour after its legalization. Insp. Gord Spado had told CBC News that the ticket was issued by one of his officers during a traffic stop.

Spado also said that although the cannabis was likely illegally purchased, no ticket was issued for that. The ticket came with a $672 fine.

After implementation of changes in the Cannabis Harm Prevention Act in 2017, Winnipeg police officers had issued two citations for cannabis transportation in a vehicle.

The fines for new marijuana offences include the following in Manitoba:

  • $2,542: Supplying cannabis to a young person under age 19.
  • $2,542: Growing non-medical cannabis in a residence in Manitoba.
  • $672: Smoking or vaping cannabis in provincial parks.
  • $672: Smoking or vaping cannabis in a public place.
  • $237: Driver carrying cannabis in or on vehicle (i.e.not in trunk; same fine for off-road vehicles).
  • $672: Consuming cannabis in or on vehicle on a highway.
  • $672: Consuming cannabis in or on off-road vehicle.

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