HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Grow-op Home Seizures Challenged
Pubdate: Wed, 12 Nov 2008
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 The Edmonton Journal
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Supreme Court Asked If Penalty Too Severe

OTTAWA (CNS) - Judy Ann Craig, a former realtor with a golden touch 
for gardening, will try to convince the Supreme Court of Canada on 
Thursday that being forced to forfeit her North Vancouver home for 
running a marijuana grow-op is extreme punishment for her crime.

Craig is one of three Canadians -- two from B.C. and one from Quebec 
- -- challenging the seizure of homes in which they grew pot, a penalty 
that is increasingly levied following changes six years ago to 
federal drug laws. The 58-year-old horticulturalist contends that 
running a small-scale operation, mainly in her basement, should not 
warrant the same harsh penalties imposed for large, sophisticated 
businesses controlled by organized crime.

"Forfeiture of a residence of someone at retirement age with no 
record is severe and destroys hope of rehabilitation," Craig's 
lawyer, Howard Rubin, argues in a Supreme Court brief that describes 
her as "a minor cog in a broader sociological problem."

Craig, who says she started growing marijuana at the urging of an 
HIV-infected friend a decade ago, pleaded guilty in 2003 after police 
seized 186 marijuana plants.

She received a conditional sentence and a $115,000 fine, but since 
she had no other assets and owed $250,000 in unpaid taxes from her 
ill-gotten earnings, the court ordered the forfeiture of her small, 
two-storey home. It was valued at $460,000 at the time of her 2005 sentencing.

Craig's lawyer will argue that federal forfeiture laws for drug 
crimes should not apply to Craig, whom he described in court 
testimony as an "independent" entrepreneur.

The B.C. Court of Appeal, in ruling against Craig, said she was the 
operator of "a successful commercial operation that grossed over 
$100,000 a year."

"Although the substance was marijuana and not a more dangerous 
substance like cocaine or heroin, the (courts) in British Columbia 
have accepted that grow operations in residential neighbourhoods 
present significant dangers to the community," says a brief from 
federal lawyers Francois Lacasse and Paul Riley.
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