Ex-marijuana-dispensary owner has appeal dismissed against 2015 conviction

A Mission man had his appeal dismissed against a 2015 conviction for unlawful sale of cannabis out of his medical marijuana dispensary in Deroche.

The Mission RCMP busted Bob Woolsey’s “compassion club,” following the sale of marijuana to undercover officers who did not present medical cards on numerous occasions. He was sentenced in April, 2018 to time served, and given a $250 fine for each of the five counts.

Woolsey, who represented himself at trial, immediately said he would appeal the decision after he was convicted on the basis of entrapment and abuse of process, calling the charges, “frivolous – absolutely frivolous.”

Later that year, recreational sale and use of cannabis would be legalized.

For his appeal, Woosley submitted the judge failed to properly warn him of the legal disadvantages in dismissing his lawyer before the trial began, failed to inquire into the circumstances, failed to aid him when he showed confusion about the process, and failed to recommend he apply for a judicial stay when the trail exceeded a reasonable time.

“The onus on a trial judge to assist a self-represented accused is a heavy one, rooted in concerns with trial fairness and not with the ultimate verdict,” Justice Gail Dickson found on June 29.

“The judge must take care not to overstep the role of impartial arbiter and become an advocate.”

Although at times Woosley appeared confused about the trial process, Dickinson wrote, such as abandoning the entrapment, officially induced error, and abuse of power portions of his defence and moving straight to a constitutional challenge – which had no chance of success in provincial court – she did not agree it was the judge’s duty to help him with tactical decisions.

She also factored in that Woosley never indicated he regretted or misunderstood his decision to abandon the motions.

“His decision to abandon certain aspects of his defence and focus on the constitutional challenge and his motion to quash was a tactical choice that was his and his alone to make,” Dickson said. “It was not for the judge to second guess Mr. Woolsey.”

She also found that Woosley was given leeway in certain aspects of the trial by the judge, such as reminding him to question Crown witnesses, and the ability to recall them, if necessary.

Dickson did find, however, that Woolsey should have been notified he could apply for a stay of the proceedings as the legally defined “reasonable time” for a trial had been exceeded.

“It is curious that neither he nor Crown counsel drew to Mr. Woolsey’s attention the fact that the 18-month presumptive ceiling was exceeded when the trial resumed,” she said. “At that point, there was an apparent breach under (the Charter of Rights).”

But the error was minor, according to Dickson, and did not rise to a miscarriage of justice, nor was there a reasonable possibility that such an application would be successful.

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