A couple from BC thought they were following the law when they grew pot plants in their yard, but an off-duty Mountie spotted the weed, which led to their home being raided.
When a Canadian couple entered their town’s local Garden and Art Tour this year, they didn’t expect that their participation in this community event would get them in trouble with local police.
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.
Near their front door, the couple found a search warrant from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stating that their home had been raided because these pot plants were visible to the public. The warrant said that as of July 28th, cops had “reasonable grounds for believing that the following offenses have been committed: Grown non-medical cannabis that is visible from public place,” according to CBC News. How the Mounties determined the couple’s plants weren’t cultivated for medicinal purposes is unclear.
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.
After the raid, Minten said she “was incredibly heartbroken,” CBC News reports. “I felt invaded. I felt betrayed by my local RCMP.” The homeowner added that she thought the cops’ “actions were unjust, and they could have very easily just come and communicated with me to let me know that I had drawn the line… I’m very disappointed with the waste of resources.”
Five days after the raid, Cpl. Esson spoke to Minten in person to let her know that the RCMP would not be pursuing charges against her. “It was a really good conversation — it was honest, it was full-hearted, it was meant to right this wrong,” Minten said to CTV. “This is a new law, there’s going to be growing pains and I’ve learned [the laws] are not as pretty as they look and people should be more aware than I was and to be less naive about the exciting news pot is legal — and it wasn’t as exciting as it seemed.”
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.
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.
Now that the police have explained their side of things, “the olive branch has come out,” Minten said. “I think we can deal with things without anger… I’m sorry so many people got worked up over this. That was not my intention.”