The Canadian Bar Association
Criminal

Prosecuting youth for $1 worth of pot a "waste" of resources

Prosecuting a young offender without any prior drug convictions on his record for possessing a tenth of a gram of marijuana is a complete waste of court resources and taxpayers' money, says Toronto criminal lawyer Jordana Goldlist.

 

"It's a case that should spark outrage in people – that this is how federal prosecutors are allocating precious resources," she says.

 

In the end,  the youth was acquitted of the charge after a day-long trial.

 

Goldlist says bringing the matter to trial in the first place was a misuse of judicial resources, particularly given the ongoing debate about decriminalizing marijuana possession in this country.

 

"This was ridiculous; he was charged with being in possession of 0.1 grams of marijuana," she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

 

"Everybody complains about the backlog in the criminal justice system and look at what is being prosecuted. The case tied up a courtroom from 10:30 a.m until 4:30 p.m. This is tax dollars being wasted on all angles; it's being wasted in the prosecution, the defence, judicial resources and we're using the real estate of a courtroom for the entire day over (at most) a dollar's worth of weed."

 

Goldlist doesn't know why the Crown took such a hard line approach with the youth after an officer at the Brampton Courthouse found the "miniscule" amount – about the size of an eraser on the tip of a pencil – of marijuana while he was in custody in a cell waiting for his court appearance on another matter.

 

At trial, the officer claimed to have smelled the odour of marijuana on the range but couldn't determine which cell it was coming from, says Goldlist.

 

The officer testified at trial that as he approached a cell in which Goldlist's client was situated, he noticed something fall from the youth's pants pocket. A video that showed the interior of the cell failed to clearly show anything falling from the teen's pocket, says Goldlist.

 

"In watching the video, it was quite possible that the officer was mistaken," she says.

 

The judge acquitted the youth.

 

"People are sitting in custody for three or four months waiting for a trial because this is what's being prosecuted – a dollar's worth of weed," says Goldlist.

 

 

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