Man who grew marijuana for medicine gets jail time for production

Published on January 8, 2015

PICTOU – A Stellarton man will serve 60 days in jail for producing marijuana that he says he needs to help ease his chronic pain.

James Malcolm Russell MacDonald, 36, was sentenced in Pictou Provincial Court Thursday on a conviction of production of marijuana and three additional counts of unsafe storage of a firearm.

He was arrested in February 2014 when the Pictou County Integrated Street Crime Unit obtained a warrant to search his Stellarton home.

Police seized 10 marijuana plants, 225 grams of bud and 600 grams of shake during the search. They also took possession of a .410-gauge shotgun, semi-automatic gun and 12-gauge shotgun. The guns all had trigger locks but were located on a table where the marijuana was begin grown and ammunition for all three weapons was close by.

Crown attorney Bronwyn Duffy asked the court to consider a sentence of 60 days in jail followed by 12 months’ probation in an effort to send a message of denunciation and deterrence.

She acknowledged that MacDonald didn't have a prior criminal record and he had a medical marijuana licence that was expired at the time of his arrest.

Defence lawyer Rob Sutherland said his client suffers from anxiety, depression and Crohn’s disease, making it impossible for him to obtain full-time employment or live without medication.

He said his client had a medical marijuana licence in the past, but was “not as diligent as he should have been in renewing it.” He received his new licence in July 2014.

Sutherland also noted that MacDonald used the guns found in his home for hunting and asked the court not to order a forfeiture order for them.

MacDonald told Judge Del Atwood that he was not trafficking the drugs, but growing them to help ease the constant pain he feels from his Crohn’s disease, which leaves him sick and in pain on a regular basis.

He said the process involved in obtaining a medical marijuana licence is cumbersome and he has been forced in the past to live without the one drug that helps ease his symptoms.

“I feel it shouldn’t have to come to a choice of being well or being a criminal,” he told the court. “I would like to be given an absolute discharge. I had no choice but to grow medical cannabis to control this painful disease.”

MacDonald also asked the court to return all his grow-op equipment.

Atwood said a strong message of deterrence needed to be sent considering MacDonald’s “sense of impunity under criminal law and the Controlled Drug and Substance Act.”

He sentenced MacDonald to 60 days in jail followed by 12 months’ probation. He was fined $900 for the total weapon offences and more than $400 in victim surcharges. He must also forfeit his firearms seized in the police search.