WINNIPEG — A Manitoba judge has given a break to a medical marijuana crusader found guilty of trafficking pot to numerous clients across Canada.
Grant Krieger received a suspended sentence with nine months of probation Monday, not the jail sentence he feared would kill him.
“Mr. Krieger is not like most of the drug offenders we sentence in this court,” said Queen’s Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg.
“While Mr. Krieger’s actions were illegal, many, perhaps most, would say they are not immoral. Indeed he has no real victims.”
Krieger, 54, was convicted last year of possession for the purpose of trafficking following a high-profile trial that made headlines across Canada.
The Calgary resident has been battling progressive multiple sclerosis since 1978 and says his only relief comes from cannabis.
Krieger admitted he broke the law but was seeking to be acquitted on sympathetic grounds. Jurors took only about 30 minutes to reach their unanimous guilty verdict.
Krieger — who started the Grant W. Krieger Cannabis Research Foundation — testified in his own defence how his life was in a rapid downward spiral and he even tried to kill himself before he found marijuana.
“Without it, I wouldn’t be standing here before you today,” he told jurors. “I’d be in a wheelchair or dead right now.”
Krieger said his many customers are in a similar position — they are suffering from chronic pain, disease and even terminal illness and have come to him looking to improve their quality of life.
He admits selling pot to dozens of people across Canada, including several in Manitoba which resulted in his 2004 arrest near Headingley, but insisted there is a major difference between him and a drug dealer.
Greenberg agreed in her sentencing decision.
“Mr. Krieger provided people with marijuana only where he was satisfied they suffered from a serious illness such as cancer. For example, he once turned down a person who sought his assistance for a broken arm,” the judge said Monday.
“While he might be considered reckless by effectively ‘playing doctor’, there is no evidence that he caused anyone any harm.”
Greenberg noted the federal government has made changes to the law making it easier for those with serious medical issues to get pot since Krieger started his foundation.
The Crown argued although Krieger had clearance to possess pot for his own health reasons, he didn’t have permission from the federal government to sell marijuana for medicinal reasons.
There is a program in place to distribute the drug to those who get special clearance from doctors, but Krieger said the whole system is flawed. He said most doctors are afraid to make such a declaration. And Krieger ripped the federal government for the quality of its medicinal marijuana produced in Flin Flon, Man.
“It’s grown in a dirty mine shaft,” Krieger told jurors. He said the drug is overly processed and diluted by the time it gets to those in need. He said his marijuana is prime quality, especially when extracted and reduced to “cannabis butter.”
He denied profiting from his alleged crime, saying he’s “in the red” and frequently gives away drugs to those on fixed incomes who desperately need it.
Krieger announced earlier this year he was shutting down his foundation.
The move prompted the Alberta Court of Appeal to replace a four-month jail sentence with 18 months of probation on a similar drug charge to the one in Manitoba.
(Winnipeg Free Press)