Activist Gets House Arrest After 37 Lbs Of Pot Found
David Sylvestre was sentenced to 10 months under house arrest after pleading guilty to production of a controlled substance — cannabis and cannabis resin — he said he uses to treat severe diabetes. Sylvestre, 54, was also charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of property obtained by crime in February 2009, after a search warrant executed at his St. Charles home turned up almost $ 100,000 worth of illicit substances. Those charges were withdrawn.
Police seized 37 pounds of marijuana, 12 pounds of cannabis oil or resin and $ 1,300 in cash at Sylvestre’s home.
Sylvestre appeared in the Superior Court of Justice before Justice Robbie Gordon, who heard submissions from Sylvestre’s lawyer, Denis Michel, and Crown prosecutor Denys Bradley prior to delivering his sentence.
Michel was seeking a conditional sentence of house arrest for his client and Bradley was seeking a jail sentence of nine to 12 months.
About 40 supporters of Sylvestre’s, in favour of the medical use of marijuana, packed into Courtroom J to lend support to the man who ran for the Green Party of Ontario against Sudbury Liberal MPP Rick Bartolucci in the 2007 election.
Michel said his client had never been in trouble with the law and was a practitioner of natural medicine who derived a product from marijuana he thought was a “miracle cure” for controlling diabetes.
Sylvestre has post-secondary education in chemical engineering and was growing marijuana and experimenting to see whether it could replace the conventional medications and insulin he was taking for diabetes.
Sylvestre worked for more than 25 years and raised a family, and when he was charged by police, he and his family were just “getting on with enjoying the Earth’s benefits,” said Michel.
Michel told the court while Sylvestre had a prescription from a physician for the use of marijuana and had applied to Health Canada for permission to use the substance, he hasn’t been licensed to do so.
Gordon questioned why Sylvestre would have grown such a large quantity of marijuana when he said he needed less than eight grams a day to control diabetes.
The judge pointed out police seized 36.9 pounds of marijuana buds, 12 pounds of cannabis resin and 38 plants from six to 18 inches tall.
“Does that seem to you to be an inordinate amount?” he asked Michel.
Michel agreed it did, but said Sylvestre needed that quantity to produce the substance that gave him relief from diabetes symptoms.
“I’m not saying it’s a cure for everyone,” said Michel of his client’s use of cannabis to control diabetes.
But his client didn’t want to become wheelchair-bound from complications from the disease.
Sylvestre later told Gordon, because he hadn’t grown marijuana before, he didn’t realize how much of the substance he was producing.
Michel said his client was not a danger to society.
“A conditional sentence is jail, it is custody. There’s no denying it,” said Michel.
Some people think it’s a “glorified probation order,” he said, but it’s not.
Bradley spoke of the impact a grow operation this size could have on the wider community, suggesting people like Sylvestre are “the reason there are drugs in schools in our community.”
Sylvestre’s supporters booed and jeered at that remark before being admonished by Gordon they weren’t doing Sylvestre any favours.
Bradley urged the judge to send a message to citizens with his sentencing of Sylvestre that jail is the result of running “large, sophisticated” grow operations.
Sylvestre told Gordon he did not have “monetary profit” in mind when he grew the large quantity of marijuana.
At one point, Gordon cautioned Sylvestre he was venturing “a little far afield” when he spoke about nutrition and soils in relation to diabetes, urging him to stick to the matter at hand. “I have an intent to do no harm in honesty and integrity,” Sylvestre told the judge.
“I am not a criminal, not at all, and so I stand here before you … I could tell you lots more, but it would probably not be what you want to hear.”
Sylvestre said he watched a friend die of diabetes-related complications, and feared that was his fate if he continued with traditional medicine.
He even contemplated suicide, “that’s how bad my quality of life was,” said Sylvestre, who is now on a disability pension.
He said it was “unbelievable” he would be denied a way to improve his health, but he said he had no intentions of breaking the law.
“I want to prosper life, not just for me but for everybody,” he said.
Gordon asked Sylvestre what happens when that desire conflicts with the law.
Sylvestre said people should work to change those laws. Several members of the gallery cheered.
Said Sylvestre: “I cannot just sit back and do nothing, but I will not break the law.”
An activist involved in Occupy Sudbury protests, the anti-poverty movement and community gardening, Sylvestre said he tells people to “respect the law” and “do no harm.
“I don’t know what else to say.”
Gordon said he believed Sylvestre did not sell the cannabis he grew, but Gordon said he “wasn’t naive enough to believe it wasn’t shared with others.”
Bradley had told the court he feared just that — that cannabis shared with others would end up in the wrong hands.
Gordon said he doubts Sylvestre will stop using cannabis, but said he did not think Sylvestre posed a threat to the community.
This is one of the rare instances where a conditional sentence is appropriate, said Gordon.
“This is no slap on the wrist,” and 10 months of house arrest reflects that.
Under the terms of his sentence, Sylvestre must remain at his home in the Flour Mill at all times except for medical appointments and Saturdays from 10 a.m..-4 p.m.
He cannot possess weapons for 10 years.
When asked if he could comply with those conditions, Sylvestre said yes. “Good luck,” said Gordon before adjourning.
Supporters broke into loud applause, cheers and whistles, crowding around Sylvestre and hugging him as he spoke with reporters.
Sylvestre said he was never worried about going to jail, although his family was.
One of his supporters, a man about 30, began to weep when Sylvestre repeated his mantra of “no harm in honesty and integrity.”
Said the man: “That’s Dave.”
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