Budtender gets some sage advice from judge
An Ottawa judge gave a 19-year-old clerk arrested for working at an illegal pot shop some advice Friday that may spare him from a criminal record.
Justice Célynne Dorval told Kevin McChesney that he might want to enter his guilty plea in front of another judge.
She wouldn’t normally tell that to an accused, noted Dorval, but McChesney was representing himself.
McChesney was arrested at the CannaGreen pot shop in Orléans in November 2016 and charged with eight counts of drug trafficking and possessing the property proceeds of crime. McChesney told court that he cannot afford a lawyer and was not able to obtain Legal Aid.
If he’d had a lawyer, McChesney would have been advised that only one Ottawa judge — Norman Boxall — has given “budtenders” pleading guilty conditional discharges, said Dorval. A conditional discharge means the accused has no criminal record.
Two other judges, including Dorval herself, have given budtenders suspended sentences, which means they have criminal records. The difference is substantial, since a criminal record can interfere with a person’s ability to find employment, enter some occupations or travel outside Canada.
“If you had a lawyer he would tell you that I have refused a conditional discharge in circumstances that are similar to yours,” said Dorval.
She told McChesney that he may want to plead guilty in Justice Boxall’s court. “It doesn’t mean he’s going to rule the same way every time, but it’s only fair for you to know that.”
She instructed the clerk to check Boxall’s availability, but he was booked. In the end, McChesney was given a chance to consult with duty counsel and the matter was set aside to Sept. 26.
It’s unusual for a judge to give that kind of advice to an accused, but in this case it was appropriate, said Ottawa criminal lawyer Michael Spratt. The court must ensure the process is fair when people represent themselves, he said.