Drug sentences uneven

Even casual observers of the justice system know that drugs are at the root of the vast majority of court cases.

Even casual observers of the justice system know that drugs are at the root of the vast majority of court cases.

From violence fueled by drugs or inspired by a need to protect drug turf, to thefts driven by the need to feed an addiction, to the growing, manufacturing or importing and pushing of drugs, the parade of criminals and victims is endless.

It is also tragic, devastating and debilitating for many Canadians.

Drugs scar and destroy lives.

Drug-related cases clog our justice system, drive up our policing costs, affect workplace efficiency and put a huge strain on our health-care system.

None of this can be denied.

Why then, in the face of such horrific evidence, does the judiciary continue to treat those involved in the drug trade with such an uneven, often permissive, hand?

Last week, a Red Deer man walked out of court after being convicted of possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, producing marijuana and stealing electricity, following a two-day Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench trial.

In the November 2007 bust that resulted in his arrest, police found 526 marijuana plants worth $750,000 to $1 million a year, based on a harvest of three crops annually. The grow-op bust was one of eight in Red Deer over a 12-month period between late 2006 and late 2007.

To say grow-ops have become a big, insidious business in Red Deer is an understatement. Grow-ops have been found in neighbourhoods all over town, just as apparent crack and crystal meth houses have cropped up with alarming regularity in as many subdivisions. Drugs are woven into the very fabric of our communities.

But Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross seemed to lack that perspective. The Edmonton judge gave Jay Hein Tang, 42, a conditional sentence of two years less a day for operating a grow-op in Sunnybrook. The first 15 months will be served as house arrest, followed by a nine-months curfew and 100 hours of community work (presumably not with young people).

Five other people have been convicted after the spate of marijuana grow-operation busts. Every one of them landed in jail, for between two years and 28 months; that’s federal penitentiary time. All of them pleaded guilty and all of them were sentenced by Central Alberta judges.

For criminals, what are the lessons in order to get a lighter sentence?

l Plead not guilty, thus wasting more valuable court time by necessitating a trial.

l Ask your lawyer to seek delays or otherwise angle to get you an out-of-town judge.

l Present yourself as a ‘crop sitter,’ as Tang did, inferring that some other higher authority was responsible (regardless of the fact that he owned the home).

For the average citizen, the lessons are more painful: the law is inconsistent in its attempts to take drug dealers out of circulation, and to punish them for infecting the lives of countless Canadians.

We are not an eye-for-an-eye society. If we were, countless convicted drug dealers, growers and manufacturers would be living a life of despair, or they would be dead — much like their victims.

But we do expect fairness from our judiciary, not inexplicable sentences that suggest a leniency out of kilter with the severity of the crime.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

Just Posted

Officials report some headway on wildfires, but thick smoke hangs over B.C.

Wildfire crews report some headway was made over the weekend battling hundreds… Continue reading

WATCH: Central Albertans learn about farm life at Sunnybrook Farm Museum

Pioneer Days Festival in Red Deer Saturday-Sunday

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Police chiefs want new data-sharing treaty with U.S. as privacy questions linger

OTTAWA — Canada’s police chiefs are pressing the Trudeau government to sign… Continue reading

Pope on sex abuse: “We showed no care for the little ones”

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the… Continue reading

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month