A Whitehorse man who was using marijuana and cocaine to soothe pain from rheumatoid arthritis won’t go to jail.
On Sept. 23, territorial court judge Karen Ruddy sentenced Steven Bullers to a four-month suspended sentence and six months of probation.
That means that if Bullers abides by his probation terms, he won’t serve the jail sentence.
The 41-year-old man was arrested a first time on Sept. 18, 2014 at Whitehorse’s Erik Nielsen International Airport with 4.5 kilograms of marijuana.
His Health Canada authorization — which allowed Bullers a maximum of 1.5 kg — had expired six months before.
Bullers had the Health Canada license to deal with the pain from the arthritis.
He purchased marijuana from a grower in B.C. but after one package got lost in the mail, he started flying to the grower to pick up the pot, the decision reads.
Bullers purchased larger quantities to keep costs low.
After his arrest, he started using cocaine instead.
“His counsel advised that Mr. Bullers became increasingly involved with drug dealers to get easy access to cocaine, but concedes that these associations and his use of cocaine did begin prior to his arrest for possession of marijuana,” Ruddy said.
He was arrested after police found 2.41 grams of cocaine in his car March 16, 2015 as part of a larger drug investigation the RCMP was conducting.
Ruddy said Bullers had “peripheral” involvement in the group.
When an RCMP member contacted a dial-a-dope number, he was told to meet someone with a car matching the description of one driven by Bullers.
There were other transactions where Bullers was present, but he was only the driver, Ruddy said.
“The Crown concedes that it cannot prove that Mr. Bullers possessed the cocaine for the purpose of trafficking,” she wrote.
After being released from custody for the cocaine offence, Bullers checked himself into rehab.
He sought counselling on his own because there was a 14-month wait list for individual counselling at Alcohol and Drug Services, the Yukon government-run program.
Because of his addiction issues, he is no longer eligible for medical marijuana.
The defence was seeking a conditional discharge. It’s similar to a suspended sentence, with the offender avoiding jail if he successfully completes a period of probation, but doesn’t result in a criminal record.
Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux was seeking house arrest.
Bullers has a previous conviction for possessing LSD in 1998. He has a “solid employment history” Ruddy said, and has been working since his release from custody.
He also has split custody of his children, an element the defence focused on, saying Buller wanted to provide them with a stable environment.
“Mr. Bullers’ rehabilitative efforts suggest that his arrest and prosecution have had the desired effect of deterring him from committing similar offences,” Ruddy said.
That however, is not enough to justify a conditional discharge, Ruddy found, as the judge must also take into account the public interest when handing out a sentence.
“However, there is a public interest in sending a strong message that such offences, particularly where cocaine is involved, will not be tolerated.”
Contact Pierre Chauvin at email@example.com