A Revelstoke, B.C. woman who had her home searched and her cannabis plants seized by the RCMP after opening her property to the public for a charity event wishes police had simply warned her that it's illegal for home-cultivated cannabis plants to be visible to the public in British Columbia.
"It's a common thing in this community, and I was gifted three (cannabis plants)," said Anna Minten, whose story of how RCMP seized her cannabis plants on August 2 was first reported by the Revelstoke Mountaineer and has since attracted national media attention.
"And it's hilarious, because everyone's trying to gift me three more now that the first three got chopped."
Minten and her husband, who grow their own food at their Revelstoke home, opened their property to the public as part of a July 28 community garden tour to support a local non-profit. Unbeknownst to them, an off-duty RCMP officer came to the half-acre property on the tour and saw three cannabis plants.
"They weren't stand-out plants. They were greenery amongst the greenery," said Minten, who added that a tenant who lives on the property wasn't even aware of the plants until after RCMP searched the home.
But the off-duty RCMP officer who saw the cannabis during the tour raised the alarm. An August 2 search warrant for the property was made out to Revelstoke RCMP officer Cst. Faron Ling, and cites reasonable grounds to believe that someone on the property violated section 56(g) of British Columbia's Cannabis Control and Licensing Act. That provincial law makes it illegal to grow non-medical cannabis at home if the cannabis is visible, unaided, from a public place, which is defined as "any place to which the public has access as of right or by invitation, express or implied, whether or not a fee is charged for entry."
As previously described by the B.C. government to The Leaf News, the provincial law is meant to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth who might presumably be enticed to steal cannabis from someone's garden. B.C. RCMP cited that same objective in a press release about the incident.Advertisement
"By not properly growing cannabis plants, the residents have opened themselves up to the possibility of theft of the cannabis and drugs falling into the hands of youth in our community," said Revelstoke RCMP Cpl. Mike Esson in the press release, which confirmed that the Aug. 2 search of Minten's property was initiated by the RCMP officer who went on the garden tour.
Minten said she understands, and agrees with, the objective of the B.C. law.
"I don't want it in the hands of the youth, that would be horrendous — I would be heartbroken if that was what resulted from it," she said. "That's in no way, and never was, my intention."
But Minten had no idea that British Columbia law requires cannabis plants to be hidden from public view.
"I was trying to grow myself some medicine, that I thought was legal... I feel like the RCMP has a little bit of backpedaling to do, and hopefully they don't fall off their bike as they try to own their actions to the community, because it's a bit of a frustration for a lot of us, no matter how we look at it," — Anna Minten
"That is a line that I had crossed, and I would have hoped and trusted that, at the moment that I offended that RCMP officer, he took it as a moment of education, to let me know that that was not appropriate, that I should have even just covered them up... I would have been like, 'Oh yeah, you know what, that makes total sense. Thanks for letting me know, I'll move them.'"
Charges have not been laid in the case, according to B.C. RCMP. The penalty for a first offence could be a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment for up to three months, or both. Minten said the Revelstoke community is behind her, and "lots of people... just saw this as an outright injustice."
"I was trying to grow myself some medicine, that I thought was legal... I feel like the RCMP has a little bit of backpedaling to do, and hopefully they don't fall off their bike as they try to own their actions to the community, because it's a bit of a frustration for a lot of us, no matter how we look at it," she said.
In the meantime, Minten hopes the incident sparks a conversation about police priorities.
"There's a lot of people speaking up and going, 'What the heck? There's people dying, and this is what our resources are being spent towards?'"
Although the Liberal government's Cannabis Act legalized the cultivation of up to four cannabis plants per household by Canadian adults, provinces like British Columbia have added their own home cultivation laws on top of the federal law. The provinces of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island also require that cannabis plants be hidden from the public.