80-year-old pot grower too ill for jail time?

Image Credit: SOURCE/ Wikipedia Commons

By Charlotte Helston

A Vernon judge wants to wait for an 80-year-old man's medical test results to come in before sentencing him on production and possession of marijuana charges.

James Gibson was the principle operator of a family run marijuana grow operation in Falkland. Last week, his son Rob Gibson was given 18 months jail time for his involvement at the grow-op. Gibson's wife Jean also faces charges of possession and production, and while she was scheduled for court today with her husband, her sentence was not discussed.

The grow-op was shut down after an RCMP bust in 2011 and deemed to be of large scale commercial proportions. A former grow-op had been shut down on the premises in 2007, and while Gibson owned the property at that time, he was not found to be involved.

Gibson and his wife moved onto the property in 2009. Their health had deteriorated, and they wanted to be closer to their children. Gibson suffers from diabetes, glaucoma, spinal degeneration and osteoporosis. He also lost his hearing during a three year stint with the Canadian Air Force. His wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. They both consume marijuana to ease the discomfort of their conditions.

When the Gibsons moved onto the property, their children were already running a grow-op. Gibson's lawyer, Marty Johnson, says his client felt compelled to assist in the operation.

"In a perverse way, he was attempting to aid his son," Johnson said. Gibson actively worked in the outbuilding that contained the marijuana plants.

Gibson has an upcoming appointment for a skeletal X-ray. "They're looking for cancer," Johnson said. Gibson's doctor says incarceration would endanger his health, and Johnson is working hard to convince Judge Mark Takahashi on a conditional sentence order instead of jail time which he said would be a "death sentence."

"His prognosis is not good," Johnson said, adding that Gibson and his wife rely heavily on each other's support and that separating them would be a hardship.

Takahashi said he wanted more information on Gibson's medical situation before making his decision. "I'd like more information... if he has cancer... if he's going to die," Takahashi said. He noted that medical treatment is available in prison, which will affect his decision.

"It's not appropriate for me to make a snap decision now," he said.

Gibson, who holds a BA from Simon Fraser University, and was formerly a probation then a parole officer, exited the courtroom with his wife and several family members at his side. He is expected to return to court sometime in March.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call (250)309-5230

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