A man in Sarnia, Ontario is free on bail after it was discovered that his sentence to one year in prison after being found to possess 97 grams of marijuana was a mistake; his sentence should have actually been between 30-60 days.
James Munroe, 23, was sentenced to one year in prison, which was the “minimum sentence” in the case according to the judge. Munroe plead guilty, and was sentenced. The only problem with the sentencing is that the minimum sentence of one year didn’t actually apply to Munroe, who had been carrying 97 grams (3.4oz) of marijuana. Normally, 30-60 days is the regular sentence handed down in these types of cases. To receive a minimum sentence of one year, a person must possess 3kg (6.6 pounds) of marijuana.
The real sad part of this story is the judge, prosecutor, and Munroe’s own lawyer failed to notice the huge mistake made in the case. It was only after lawyers on Facebook noticed the error that Munroe was released on bail, pending an appeal which will likely see his sentence reduced to 30-60 days with credit for time served, which was about a week. He was released on bail after the lawyers noticed the error on Facebook, and the issue was brought to the federal prosecutor in charge of Ontario’s criminal appeals.
I find it sad that no one in the courtroom that day caught the error. Especially Munroe’s lawyer. It’s the lawyer’s job to notice these errors, yet he failed to do so. The judge came close, calling the minimum sentence a harsh one for the offense, but said there wasn’t anything he could do; the minimum sentence is what it is…the only problem is, it didn’t apply in this case.
Had it not been for social media, would anyone have caught the error? Would Munroe have served one year in jail, when his sentence shouldn’t have exceeded 60 days? Maybe, and that’s a scary thought.
The fact that the judge, prosecutor, and his own lawyer didn’t notice the error that was made is scary. Could this happen again in another case, and go unnoticed? If so, is there anyone behind bars serving an excess of time for the offence they were convicted of? It’s a scary thought that one can be sentenced under a minimum sentence that doesn’t actually apply to them. The lawyer is supposed to know the law, and they have the resources to look up the law in question to determine what the sentence should be. The judge and prosecutor also have that same power, except none of them exercised it, except for all of the other lawyers on Facebook. Aren’t they supposed to know the law and apply it correctly?
One could argue that 30-60 days is also a rather harsh offence for that amount of marijuana. The world is growing accepting of it, as we’ve seen in certain US states like Washington, and Colorado. However, north of the border, it appears the federal government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has no intentions to change the status-quo. A government ad campaign that ran for ten weeks explaining to Canadians just how deadly Marijuana is cost taxpayers seven million dollars…all while they continue to allow the sales of cigarettes and liquor which are actually harmful. Oh, and don’t forget all of the profits from cigarettes and liquor, which the government makes through taxation.
You’d think the government could see the benefits of legalizing marijuana. It could reduce the strain on the legal system, freeing up resources to deal with actual criminals. Just think, the government could quit spending millions on running ads trashing marijuana, and profit from the taxes from it as Colorado has.
That may very well take a different political party within power in Canada to see any major changes in that respect. Harper’s conservatives aren’t about to move in the direction of legalization any time soon.