HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html N Van Woman Fights Seizure Of Grow-Op Home
Pubdate: Wed, 19 Nov 2008
Source: Outlook, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Outlook
Author: Sam Cooper
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


North Vancouver woman Judy Ann Craig, a 58-year-old former realtor,
has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada to halt the forfeiture of
the North Vancouver house she used as a marijuana growing and selling
business, generating "over $100,000 a year" in income according to the
B.C. Court of Appeal.

Craig is one of three Canadians challenging federal drug laws that
have been increasingly used to seize homes containing grow-ops.

Following last Thursday's hearing, the court has reserved judgment and
a ruling may not come before the new year said federal lawyer Paul
Riley. Riley said he could not comment on the hearing.

Legal arguments filed for the hearing obtained by The Outlook outline
crucial differences between the Crown's and appellants' interpretation
of the intent and social value of federal seizure laws, indicating a
high-impact precedent with national consequence could be established
in the Craig appeal ruling.

Craig pleaded guilty in 2003 after North Van police seized 186 pot
plants (with wholesale value of about $90,000 according to Crown
experts) from her 435 Alder St. home.

Police contacted Craig to say they believed she was running a grow-op
and asked if she'd agree to an interview. She declined, and then
police staked out her home and observed Craig and several helpers
dismantling evidence.

Craig admitted running a grow-op out of her home from 1998 and
received a $115,000 fine in provincial court with the judge ruling
against forfeiture, a ruling that was amended when Craig appealed to
the B.C. Court of Appeal for a reduced fine.

Instead she was ordered to give up the North Vancouver home, as the
operator of an illegal "successful commercial operation that grossed
over $100,000 a year."

In outlining his argument to the Supreme Court, Craig's counsel Howard
Rubin seeks to separate organized crime grow-ops from smaller "grow
operations in principal residences."

"The accused refused to let organized crime distribute her marijuana
even though that would have made more money," and she sold pot to
"people who had AIDS and friends" plus received "significant community
support at her sentencing with letters from professionals" half of
whom were "her friends and customers," Rubin argues.

Rubin argues forfeiture that targets and cripples organized crime is
legitimate but "forfeiture of a residence of someone at retirement age
with no record is severe and destroys hope of rehabilitation," and
that applying federal seizure law as a deterrent for perpetrators such
as Craig amounts to "punishing a minor cog in a broader sociologic

Rubin suggests grow-op seizures should focus on buildings run like
"factories" or weapon-guarded "fortresses" connected to organized
crime, but full forfeiture penalty should not apply to residences.

One important federal seizure test is whether drug homes are built or
significantly modified for grow-op purposes, and Rubin argues there is
no evidence to suggest that in Craig's case and asks the court to
impose some form of fine in place of the Craig home forfeiture.

However Riley says Rubin's arguments are fundamentally

Riley states federal forfeiture laws are designed primarily for public
safety reasons to attack drug crime "at its roots" by removing homes
as instruments in the drug trade, and not necessarily to financially
punish perpetrators.

"Over the past decade, marijuana grow operations have become a serious
problem from one end of the country to the other ... Grow houses
create significant risks to the community ... of fire ... (and) the
sheer value of the marihuana crop often presents a risk of
drug-related home invasions and other forms of violence."

Riley argues that Craig has omitted details in admissions about her
grow op, and that she indeed undertook a grow-op purposed home
renovation and made tax claims for drug-related business expenses.

Riley argues that in tax documents seized in a police search Craig
tried to deduct $29,320 in "start-up costs" for her grow-op including
$13,000 in construction for "processing" facilities and $11,200 for a
"hidden entranceway" from the basement to an exterior shed. Riley
states Craig tried to deduct 70 per cent of her housing costs in
relation to her grow op and claimed that 650 of her 1,000 square-feet
living space was purposed for the grow operation business, leaving 350
sq-ft. for personal living use. She claimed other areas of the house
were used for "cloning" and "storage" and "selling."

Ruling by Canada's highest court could establish precedent on home
seizure drug laws.
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