Woman 'unaware' marijuana illegal convicted of importing drugs

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 17 July 2020, 9:30PM

A woman has been convicted and fined for importation of marijuana after telling customs officers she was unaware the substance was illegal after it was discovered on her person at Faleolo International Airport. 

Stephanie Westburg, of Manono-uta and California, United States, was convicted and fined $1000 by Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke on Friday afternoon. 

The 49-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of importing prohibited substance, namely marijuana, and one count of possession of narcotics. She was represented by lawyer, Treena Atoa.  

According to the summary of facts, on 11 April 2019, Westburg arrived in Samoa on an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland. 

Upon arrival at the airport terminal, the Customs K9 drug sniffer dog showed interest in her and was taken in for questioning.

Before the search was carried out, the court heard that she told the Customs officer she was not aware marijuana was illegal in Samoa.

She did not declare the substance on the declaration form. 

The accused had in her possession two glass spray bottles with marijuana flower heads weighing 18.2 grammes. 

The defendant said she suffers from chronic pain and migraines and had previously been prescribed pain killers which are highly addictive.  As a result of concerns around the opioid based pain killers, she changed to and was prescribed medicinal marijuana to manage her pain. 

The Court heard that the prescription was obtained in Maine, U.S.A. where medicinal marijuana is legal. 

In sentencing, Ms. Westburg, Justice Leiataualesa said the charges against her are serious and it is important that the Court does not condone her actions. He said doing so will encourage others. 

“It should be no secret to any traveler that to carry any drugs across an international border, including medicinal marijuana, should be carefully considered, researched and if at all unsure, declared,” he said. 

Prosecutor and Attorney General’s Office lawyer, Quentin Sauga, had sought a non-custodial sentence with a fine of $5,000. 

After considering previous case of Rockliffe, Justice Leiataualesa settled for a $1,000 fine. 

“Whilst the quantity of marijuana was greater than in Rockliffe (supra), as it is medicinal marijuana for which you held a prescription, you will be convicted and fined $1,000.00 for the importation charge,” he said.

“On the charge of importation of prohibited imports bearing in mind the imprisonment and maximum fine, convicted and fined $1,000.00 to be paid within 14 days in default of 2 months imprisonment.” 

For the charge of possession, Ms. Westburg is convicted and discharged. 

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 17 July 2020, 9:30PM

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