Newsbrief: Ontario Court Authorizes Crackdown on Marijuana Growers 10/25/02

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Prosecutors in Ontario are vowing to follow the lead of a provincial Court of Appeal ruling last week that upheld a jail sentence for a Stoney Creek man convicted of running a residential grow-op, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record reported. Most cannabis cultivators charged in Ontario in recent years have received conditional sentences (probation), while the longest jail sentence in recent years was 15 months.

In sentencing Khuong Van Nguyen to two years in prison last June for turning his home into a grow-op, Justice Bernd Zabel lashed out at cannabis cultivators. "They have invaded our community with apparent impunity," she said. "They have boldly entered residential areas where our citizens have saved to purchase dream homes for themselves and their families -- only to be confronted with large-scale, high-risk criminal activity on their street and even next door." Now was the time to make the "risk-reward ration" less favorable to growers, she said.

Nguyen's lawyers appealed, arguing that the sentence was too harsh. The Ontario Court of Appeals ruled that jail time was indeed appropriate for grow-op convictions, especially in light of "evidence of the increasing prevalence of this form of offense in the local communities." Even so, the court reduced Nguyen's sentence to time served. Nguyen has done 14 months in jail.

Still, Crown prosecutors are crowing. "The Crown will be using the Court of Appeal decision as a precedent for all future sentencings," said Kitchener drug prosecutor David Rowcliffe.

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