An Innisfail-area man testified he had been using marijuana since the 1980s to treat depression and arthritis pain. (Black Press Media file photo)

Grow op owner who waged consitutional battle fined $20,000

Shaun Howell fined for illegally producing marijuana at Innisfail-area grow op

A man who launched a partially successful constitutional challenge related to his Innisfail-area marijuana grow op was fined $20,000 in court.

Shaun Charles Howell, 45, was fined Tuesday after being sentenced on a single count of producing a controlled substance. He was also given the standard 10-year weapons prohibition.

Howell was arrested in March 2017 and charged with unlawfully producing cannabis, and the more serious charge — which was later dropped — of possessing more than three kilograms of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking.

Police seized 739 marijuana plants weighing just over 182 kilograms, harvested marijuana weighing almost 54 kilograms and more than three kilograms of dried marijuana buds.

Howell’s high-tech operation, which included high-intensity glow lights, carbon dioxide generators, dehumidifiers and other equipment, was contained in eight sea cans.

Howell testified that he had been using marijuana since the 1980s to treat depression and arthritis pain.

Frustration with getting marijuana from government-licensed providers led him to explore setting up his own grow op on a co-op model that would provide marijuana to him and a small group of others.

He had an application pending for that operation when he was arrested.

In April 2019, Howell filed a constitutional challenge, arguing that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the access to cannabis for medical purposes regulations were inconsistent with Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Howell wanted his charges stayed, arguing that the access to cannabis for medical purposes regulations failed to provide reasonable access, which meant some people might have to go to the black market and face criminal prosecution.

Marijuana users could also face health effects because of delays, availability and cost, he said.

It was also argued that a prohibition against cannabis oils and extracts over 30 mg/100mL deprives people of the right to make reasonable medical choices about their best treatment options.

Howell has a daughter with epilepsy who requires cannabis concentrations higher than those previously allowed. It has since been replaced by the Cannabis Act of 2018, which contains different concentration limits.

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Graesser refused to stay Howell’s charges in a decision released last June, pointing out that while Howell had the right to grow marijuana for his personal use, he did not have the necessary licences.

The judge agreed though, that the prohibition on cannabis over 30 mg/100mL violated the rights of Howell and other marijuana users.

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