When people complained anonymously to police about marijuana being grown outdoors in Hanover, officers began an investigation.
On Tuesday police executed a warrant and searched two neighbouring properties in the 200 block of 17thStreet East, where they seized 386 pot plants, 898 grams of dried cannabis and a small amount of cocaine.
A 42-year-old Hanover man was charged with related offences, released on terms of an undertaking and was given an Oct. 7 court date, a lengthy delay due to court direction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The police investigation continues.
Hanover Police Chief Chris Knoll tweeted about the incident and concluded “Remember the magic number is FOUR cannabis plants to keep it legal people …. FOUR ….. 1,2,3 and 4.”
That’s the maximum plants per residence that may legally be grown for personal use without a permit.
The rules governing growing your own pot are complex, Deputy Police Chief George Hebblethwaite acknowledged in an interview Thursday.
He said the man charged was licensed to grow the marijuana for medical purposes (he had a cannabis for medical purposes registration and a personal production permit) but police allege he wasn’t following the conditions of his permit.
Police allege in one charge he was growing plants outdoors when his permit says they must be grown inside. This distinction is made in the rules because outdoor-grown marijuana can reach 10 feet and more tall, producing lots more pot.
He said for example if the permit allows 150 plants to be grown indoors, the outdoor equivalent would be 50 plants. “So your yield is three to four times more outside than inside on the same number of plants,” Hebblethwaite said.
He declined to say how many plants the man they charged was permitted to grow because it’s not on the charge document. The man’s name won’t be available until charges are sworn before a justice, likely in a week, the deputy said.
A second charge laid alleges all of the cultivation was occurring at a place that was not the man’s dwelling or property, which would be another violation of his permit.
Both offences are alleged violations of the federal Cannabis Act. The accused is also charged under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act with possession of “a small amount” of cocaine.
Hebblethwaite described the legal foundation for seizing the 898 grams of dried marijuana from the accused man’s property. When the law changed Oct. 17, 2018 to allow personal possession of small amounts of pot in public for any adult, it set the limit at 30 grams.
However, if you have an authorization from Health Canada to grow your own, depending on authorized limits, you may carry more than that in public, the deputy said.
And there’s no limit on the amount of dry cannabis you’re allowed to have in your residence, as long as you conform with the laws and your permits. Even if you don’t have a permit, if you grow for personal use you may legally accumulate a stockpile, Hebblethwaite said. Unless its stored carefully it would go mouldy, he noted.
Justification for seizing all 898 grams of dried pot is based on the allegation that it was grown illegally.
Hebblethwaite offered an analogy of police having the right to seize a driver’s open alcohol found in a vehicle’s console, along with the other 23 sealed bottles in the backseat of a vehicle. Both may be seized under the Liquor Licence Act.
Likewise, the allegation is the person wasn’t following the personal production permit from Health Canada. “So once they’re violating that, then everything becomes seizable related to it.”
Given that all the man’s marijuana was seized, which he was authorized to grow for medical purposes, his medicine was taken from him.
Hebblethwaite said as with any prescribed medicine, be it Percocets or pot, when illegality is alleged, that substance will be seized. However, the accused may still replace it legally, including by purchasing it, he said.
The Department of Justice website details what’s legal under the Cannabis Act at https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/cannabis/.