'Unique' trafficking charge stayed for Nelson activist
A charge of trafficking cannabis seeds was stayed by the federal crown counsel in BC Supreme Court Monday, just before jury selection was to begin.
Nelson resident Tom Prior was to stand trial on one count of trafficking for allegedly selling cannabis seeds to an undercover Nelson City Police officer in January, 2013.
Prior is an environmental and social activist.
Representing himself, Prior elected judge and jury in BC Supreme Court to hear the case.
But as potential jurors assembled for jury selection in court on March 17, crown counsel Rob Brown told Justice A.H. Silverman that the charge of trafficking would be stayed.
“This was a jurisdictional issue and it was best to stay it,” federal crown Rob Brown said later. “Under section 553 of the criminal code, it should have been a provincial trial.”
The judge agreed and apologized to the jury. “The court apologized profusely,” said Prior.
“I’m very pleased that the legal system chose to stay these malicious proceedings,” Prior said outside the courtroom.
Since his arrest, Prior made many appearances in court, among them at his preliminary hearing and a Constitutional Charter argument and said the process “has educated him.”
“It’s been a waste of my money and time. But I’m proud to be in a country where a poor man can defend himself,” he said. “People should appreciate that our justice system is one of the best on the planet.”
Prior, a Meti, believes he was targeted for being an outspoken activist that led to his arrest.
He characterized himself as being considered a “threat” under the proposed anti-terrorist bill C-51. A recently leaked RCMP memo suggested that protesters, like those in the First Nations, who would stand in the way of the gas and oil pipeline development could be committing a criminal offence.
“I stand up for the Sinixt, the water and the old growth forests,” he said. He also appeared as an intervener in the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings to speak against the pipeline.
Prior is also a proponent of legalizing cannabis. In 2012 he appeared before the Nelson Police Board to urge them to legalize it.
“The police board and city council might consider joining four former mayors of Vancouver and the BC Medical Association that recently implored the federal government to legalize and tax pot production,” he told the board.
Documents released to him during the legal process noted that Prior was “sympathetic to the marijuana industry.”
He didn’t deny that he believes medical marijuana seeds should be legal. “They were charging me with seeds, but there was no marijuana,” he said.
Brown said the case was “unique” in Canada because the charge stemmed from allegedly selling seeds, not the product of the plant, which is a controlled substance.