Different Kind of Grow-Op, Different Practice Area


A recent appeal heard at the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal tribunal demonstrates the powers these panels have.

Tobacco farmer Matthew Sobczyk had appealed the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers’ Marketing Boards decision to deny his 2014 application for a licence to produce tobacco, and retain the proceeds from the sale of seized tobacco.

The Sobczyk family farm had been licensed to grow tobacco since 2010. On a visit to the farm, inspectors found 32 bales of tobacco that were not properly labelled. The bales seized bales were reported stolen the next day. OPP searched the Burford-area farm, after receiving an anonymous tip, and found 43 tobacco bales in trailers and a barn. None were properly labelled.

Upholding Regulations Under the Act

A Tobacco Board hearing found that Sobczyk had failed to: attach a sticker to all bales of tobacco; record information on each sticker; include a record of all bales in the record book; and declare all storage locations of baled tobacco.

Sobczyk’s 2014 licence was denied and the Board retained all the money from the sale of the seized tobacco. He appealed the decision.

Section 16(11)[2] of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act gives the Tribunal jurisdiction to direct the Tobacco Board to take action, and to substitute its opinion for that of the Tobacco Board.

In Sobczyk v. Ontario Flue Cured Tobacco Growers’ Marketing Board, 2014 ONAFRAAT 16 (CanLII), the tribunal found that the Board had not taken into consideration mitigating factors, in its sentencing. The Tribunal noted that, while the maximum fine for a first offence under the Act is $10,000, the seized tobacco sold for $46,000.

Factors in Penalty Phase

They found that the seizure and sale of Sobczyk’s tobacco is “an appropriate and sufficient penalty in the circumstances.”

    “Mr. Sobczyk’s unblemished record must be considered as a mitigating factor. In addition, Mr. Sobczyk’s admission of guilt and the lost revenue resulting from the Tobacco Board’s sale of the seized bales need to be considered as mitigating factors as well. There is no indication that the Tobacco Board gave any consideration to these mitigating factors when determining the appropriate penalty.

    The seizure and sale of Mr. Sobczyk’s tobacco is an appropriate and sufficient penalty in the circumstances. The Tribunal finds that the refusal to grant Mr. Sobczyk a licence for the 2014 growing season is too severe taking into consideration the mitigating factors.”

Hundreds of such agencies, boards and tribunals in Ontario are within the paralegal scope of practice.

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