Iqaluit man guilty on weed, oxycontin charges

Joseph Hess to be sentenced Jan. 20


Joseph Hess of Iqaluit was to learn Jan. 20 whether he’ll face jail time after he pleaded guilty Jan. 18 to drug possession and trafficking charges.

Hess, 55, pleaded to two counts of possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and two counts of possession of oxycodone, also known as oxycontin, stemming from two separate police raids at his Iqaluit home in August, 2009 and January, 2010.

In submissions in the Nunavut Court of Justice, Hess denied he was a drug dealer. He said he used both marijuana and oxycodone to control chronic back and neck pain after a 1995 traffic accident.

But he said he pleaded guilty to the marijuana trafficking charges because he shared marijuana with friends and employees.

“I know for a fact that even if you pass a joint, it’s trafficking,” Hess said.

Defence lawyer Mia Manocchio is seeking a conditional sentence, plus probation, that would allow Hess to avoid jail.

Crown lawyer Marion Bryant argued for a jail term of two years, less a day, because the court should send a strong message discouraging oxycodone use.

“The Crown is asking this court to apply the principles of overwhelming denunciation and deterrence,” Bryant said, adding the case is the first to deal with oxycodone in Nunavut.

Hess — who has been unable to get a prescription for any narcotics since he was arrested in 2009 — said he was willing to stay away from all drugs and alcohol as a condition of sentencing.

“What I’ve done was terribly wrong,” he said. “I’m the one who’s going to pay for it and the ones who are going to suffer for it are my children. I’m sorry I’m here.”

Hess was arrested after police raided his Iqaluit home in August, 2009 and found more than a kilogram of marijuana and 271 pills containing various amounts of oxycodone.

Hess told court some of the oxycodone was prescribed, while he admitted buying stronger oxycodone pills from a man he met in the Iqaluit hospital.

He said the marijuana was a supply for an upcoming trip by boat to mine soapstone, during which time he and eight other people were to be away for as long as 47 days.

During a second raid in January of 2010, police found 29 more oxycodone pills in a bottle in Hess’ pants, and 387 grams of marijuana in his home.

Bryant told court the total value of drugs police seized in both raids was worth as much as $75,000 on the street in Iqaluit.

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