Why a Kelowna man with no record got federal prison time for drug trafficking

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KELOWNA - A young Kelowna drug dealer was hit with federal prison time last month, continuing a pattern of heavy sentences for fentanyl dealers.

Samuel David Glendinning was just 22 when he was arrested in Kelowna running a dial-a-dope operation, distributing primarily cocaine but also a mixture of heroin and fentanyl. According to a recent decision finalizing his case, he came to Kelowna to work before he got involved with the drug scene.

Glendinning had no previous criminal record and showed far better than average post-arrest conduct — rehabilitation, support from his family and community, steady work, volunteering — and at age 24 for sentencing, is still young in the eyes of the court.

Normally these are considered mitigating factors for a sentence, enough to swing a sentence in the favour of the accused because they showed signs of rehabilitation. A sentence of six months or even a suspended sentence or house arrest are not uncommon for low-level drug dealing.

But Provincial Court judge Francesca Marzari had few sentencing options because Glendinning and the Crown agreed he should spend two years plus a day, qualifying him for a federal prison sentence. That kind of prison term was almost unheard of until March 2017 when a harsh sentence — recognizing the dangers of fentanyl and the damage it causes in the community — demanded great denunciation and deterrence.

Fentanyl has had such a great impact — if not a slow reaction — on the courts, a special notice is posted on the provincial court of B.C. website.

Fentanyl and other high-powered opioids cannot be entered as evidence to avoid dangers of exposure by air or by touch and sheriffs and others have been trained to use and carry naloxone.

The notice acknowledges its own glacial but necessary pace in dealing with societal changes like a new killer drug. Only after the B.C. Court of Appeal decided the ‘scourge’ of fentanyl was so great that higher sentences were necessary in 2017 — three years after the opioid crisis began — has it become common in the courtroom.

The Court of Appeal suggested sentences that would normally be six months imprisonment be raised to 18 to 36 months and that’s largely been the standard ever since.

“The danger posed by such a drug must surely inform the moral culpability of offenders who sell it on the street, and obviously increases the gravity of the offence beyond even the gravity of trafficking in drugs such as heroin and cocaine,” Justice Mary Newbury said in that decision.

According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, fentanyl was detected in 81 per cent of overdose deaths in 2017 and continues to kill roughly three British Columbians per day or more than 100 every month.

For Glendinning, despite all the positive signs that normally move the needle lower in sentencing, a federal sentence was all but inevitable once fentanyl was detected in the drugs he was selling.

He was convicted after trial on two counts of possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking.


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