Lena Josie was sentenced to six months probation instead of receiving a conditional discharge. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

Appeal court hears case of Old Crow woman who says sentence unfairly factored in marijuana use

Lena Josie’s lawyer says she was denied discharge on assault because of unrelated marijuana use

The Yukon Court of Appeal heard the case of an Old Crow woman Nov. 30 who’s contesting her sentence for an assault charge on the grounds that the sentencing judge focused on her marijuana use — despite it having nothing to do with her offence.

Fifty-six-year-old Lena Josie, of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, pleaded guilty to common assault in February after punching another woman in the face at an Old Crow grocery store in December 2016.

However, although sentencing judge Michael Cozens found Josie was unlikely to reoffend and would otherwise be granted a conditional discharge, he wrote in his sentencing decision that Josie “admitted to smoking marijuana on a daily basis” and because of that, found a discharge wasn’t in the public interest. Josie instead received a six-month probation order.

In court, Josie’s lawyer Vincent Larochelle argued to Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale that modern Canadian society has moved towards the legalization of marijuana and a greater acceptance of its consumption, to the point where smoking marijuana is largely no longer seen as a major issue.

Larochelle also took issue with Cozens linking marijuana consumption to supporting drug trafficking and crime.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Larochelle said, and offered up a theoretical scenario to Veale — if he were to show up in court for an assault charge wearing a cotton shirt made in a sweatshop in Bangladesh, does that mean he shouldn’t get a conditional discharge because he, by Cozens’ logic, is funding slavery?

Larochelle argued, in closing, that allowing Josie’s sentence to stand would set a dangerous precedent, setting up a future where lawyers will tell their clients not to disclose drug use in order to obtain conditional discharges.

Crown attorney Amy Porteous, in her submissions, said that Josie’s sentence was fit. The whole point of a conditional discharge is that the person to whom it’s granted to will follow the law and keep the peace, she said, and possessing marijuana is a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Porteous argued that Larochelle was asking the court to overlook that fact and assume that Josie wouldn’t be caught, even though she said she intends to continue smoking marijuana.

Porteous said if the situation were the other way around — if Josie had been charged with possession and told the court she intends to keep punching people in the face — the court would have no issue with not granting her a conditional discharge.

Porteous also noted that, even though it wasn’t a key factor in Cozens’ sentencing, Veale should consider the issue of what she said was Josie’s lack of genuine remorse and how that would impact a sentence.

Veale is reserving his judgement.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

marijuanaOld CrowYukon courts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Benjamin Poudou, Mount MacIntyre’s ski club manager, poses for a photo in the club’s ski rental area on Nov. 16. The club has sold around 1,850 passes already this year, compared to 1067 passes on Oct. 31 last year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Early season ski pass sales up as Yukoners prepare for pandemic winter

Season passe sales at Mount McIntyre for cross-country skiing are up by around 60 per cent this year

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read