“Am I going to jail?”
This was Clifford Warriner’s first question after being arrested for cannabis trafficking last year.
In Sarnia Court April 19 Warriner received his answer. No jail time, but a sizeable fine and other penalties were ordered by Justice Krista Leszczynski.
Warriner, 60, appeared to be on the fortunate side securing a non-custodial sentence as Leszczynski expressed serious doubts about his excuse for the incident.
The trouble took place outside a Kettle Point cannabis store last February. Anishinabek Police had been investigating suspected cannabis trafficking and pursued a man after spotting him speaking with the dispensary owner.
The man, Warriner, didn’t get far from the store before he was pulled over. A heavy odour of marijuana was immediately detected. This came from the 11 pounds of vacuum sealed cannabis in the vehicle, along with 2,000 cannabis cigarettes, 145 CBD drops, 33 CBD bath bombs, 3 vials of cannabis oil and 0.5 grams of hash.
A check of Warriner’s cannabis licence showed he was approved to have 90 grams of cannabis for personal use, a far cry from the more than 5,000 grams he was found with. While Warriner works in the cannabis industry as a consultant, he had no distribution rights for the drug. The total value of all Warriner’s cannabis products was $50,000.
Court heard Warriner amassed such a large amount of drugs by regularly accepting payment from cannabis businesses in the form of product rather than money.
“I didn’t know what I was doing was wrong,” said Warriner during booking, before asking whether he’d land behind bars. “I’m screwed.”
Ultimately it was Warriner’s claimed ignorance of the law that saved him from harsher punishment. “He was operating under a mistaken belief that he could sell cannabis back to cannabis retailers,” says Defence Lawyer Vince Mazza. “There was no malice or bad intention, just a very poor understanding of the law.”
“I would submit that we’re not dealing by any means with a drug dealer in the traditional dangerous sense,” says Mazza, insisting his client never sold his product to an individual or on the street.
“He is embarrassed and remorseful. He knows that a person working in the cannabis industry for so long should have had a better understanding of the rules of his industry,” says Mazza.
Leszczynski had trouble accepting this could truly be the case. “This is a situation that you find yourself in after you have been involved in this industry for a very long time,” she told Warriner. “For that reason it makes it difficult… to accept that you would have no understanding that your conduct in this circumstance was wrong and unlawful.”
But it didn’t stop her from accepting the joint submission. In addition to a $1,500 fine are a lifetime weapons ban and forfeiture of all cannabis products seized along with $1,164 cash and drug paraphernalia. Warriner will also take a cannabis education program.
“As you will now appreciate the cannabis industry is one that is highly regulated and if you’re going to remain involved in that industry in any capacity I strongly recommend that you are well educated about those rules and regulations that govern it moving forward,” says Leszczynski.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent