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House arrest for pot-growing couple
MacNearneys 'very grateful' they're not going to jail: lawyer

Daniel Campbell
Northern News Services
Published Friday, January 17, 2014

A couple who illegally grew and possessed marijuana will serve their sentence at home instead of jail, a judge ordered yesterday.

NNSL photo/graphic

Alison Crowe, defence lawyer for the MacNearney couple, said her clients regret growing marijuana illegally and did not fully appreciate the risks they were taking. - Daniel Campbell/NNSL photo

Kim and Craig MacNearney were arrested in February 2009 after RCMP found 20 marijuana plants and 729 grams of cultivated marijuana in their home. A jury convicted the couple of marijuana production in December, but downgraded a second charge of marijuana trafficking to simple possession.

Justice Virginia Schuler gave the MacNearneys a five-month conditional sentence yesterday - meaning they don't have to go to jail - but they'll spend the first three months under house arrest.

Alison Crowe, the MacNearneys' defence lawyer, said it was within Schuler's power to impose a heavier sentence.

"The MacNearneys are extremely grateful to Justice Schuler for her recognition of (their) situation and they're grateful they're not going to jail today," Crowe said, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse.

During their December trial, Kim said she used marijuana to treat her chronic back pain. The mother of three testified that she and her husband began growing the plant themselves to avoid buying from dealers.

Schuler said she was satisfied the MacNearneys grew the plant for a medical purpose. The fact the MacNearneys are now legally allowed to possess and grow marijuana is a mitigating factor, Schuler added.

Kim is now licensed to possess 360 grams of marijuana for her back pain. Craig is allowed to grow 59 plants and possess more than 2,000 grams, although the couple say they do not grow marijuana anymore.

Regardless of their current licences, Schuler said she found "no logic at all" in the couple illegally growing marijuana in 2009. She suggested Kim should have approached her doctor about getting access to marijuana legally, since regulations have been in place in Canada since 2001 allowing just that.

The five-month conditional sentence means the MacNearneys will have a criminal record and be barred from certain activities at their children's schools. The couple have three children, aged 1, 6 and 7.

For the first three months of their sentence, the MacNearneys will be under house arrest. They'll be allowed to leave to attend work, take their children to school, go to medical appointments and get groceries. The couple are required to complete 100 hours of community service each during their five-month sentence.

Crowe said her clients regret growing marijuana illegally.

"The MacNearneys have paid the price - and they would be the first ones to say that it was a bad idea."

Initially, Crowe asked the court to impose a conditional discharge on the MacNearneys - meaning they would not have a criminal record. Although Schuler did not grant the request, Crowe said she has no instruction from her clients to appeal the decision.

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