This week, a raid of a residential property by the RCMP in British Columbia has some questioning a BC law that says anyone growing non-medical cannabis could be subject to jail time if it’s being cultivated in view of a public place.
When Anna Minten and her husband came home to their residence after a night out, they found that police had rummaged through their house and garden—and removed three cannabis plants they had been growing outside.
The RCMP detachment of Revelstoke, British Columbia obtained a search warrant after an off-duty officer noticed the cannabis plants during the town’s seventh annual Garden and Art Tour. That charity festival welcomed art and foliage lovers to tour private residential gardens.
The news media and the public first caught wind of the raid after the RCMP themselves published a press release earlier in the week announcing the seizure.
Dana Larsen, a long-time pro-dispensary cannabis activist, wasn’t impressed by the raid.
More details coming out on the #RevelstokeRaid.
5 RCMP officers searched their home for 2 hours!
Why search the home at all?
The “offence” was 3 legal plants in a garden open to the public for a community event.
What were cops searching for?https://t.co/nSiSg0YZDj
— Dana Larsen (@DanaLarsen) August 7, 2019
Retired cannabis lawyer and consultant Kirk Tousaw also chimed in on Twitter, calling the situation “absolutely horrible.”
This is absolutely horrible. They likely won’t charge her – so she won’t get to challenge the “visible from public place” restriction. They seized her plants. She could sue them for their value and/or make a policy complaint, that’s about it. https://t.co/4ckTwd9pR5
— KirkTousaw (@KirkTousaw) August 6, 2019
A photograph taken by CBC News with the couple standing in the spot where the plants were rooted demonstrate that they may have been visible from the street—but was far enough away that it was almost indistinguishable from its surroundings.
RCMP were able to obtain a warrant under the authority of the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act of British Columbia, which stipulates how individuals can cultivate non-medical cannabis on their residential properties.
It’s a peculiar law on the books in British Columbia that isn’t found in other provinces. Of course, Canada is not immune to “wacky” cannabis laws. For example, legal cannabis stores in BC are not allowed to use covert signalling, such as playing the “Hawaii Five-O” theme song to indicate when authorities are performing inspections.
If charges do get filed, the couple could challenge the laws in court.
Although now that the couple’s story has spread far and wide, with industry experts weighing in and newsrooms across Canada publishing articles on the tale, the RCMP might want to save face by not pursuing charges.
Does the couple have any legal recourse?
An action based on the tort of negligence alleged on the part of the RCMP would face a high barrier to success from the courts, so that route is unlikely.
BC provincial legalization law does allow individuals to seek the return of the plants, or compensation, if they can show that they were not in violation of the act when they were seized.