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Thread: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

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    Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    Drew Smith drove home on his coffee break one morning to find a shocking notice stuck to the front door. The posting, from the city of Coquitlam, warned that the premises were being used as a marijuana growing operation. "I just about fainted," said Smith, a construction supervisor.

    The longtime Lions Club fundraiser, who dresses as the Easter Bunny to hand out candy to children every spring, had been found guilty without due process. "The notice said they had concluded their investigation and knew I had an illegal marijuana-grow operation and that BC Hydro had been contacted and would be terminating my power."

    What happened to Smith and his family is an example of how the zeal to root out marijuana-growing operators can leave innocent victims facing what Smith sees as persecution. No marijuana growing operation was found at the Smith home in a subsequent inspection. But hundreds of such inspections have been carried out across Metro Vancouver in the last two years, without search warrants and based solely on the amount of electric power consumed by the homes.

    The law that allows this practice is being challenged as unconstitutional by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and has led to a lawsuit by another family. But municipal officials say the campaign to find and shut down growing operations is working effectively, has led to hundreds of operations being shut down, and has reduced the number of house fires related to indoor marijuana growing.

    No marijuana found

    At the Smith home, inspectors found no marijuana plantation but still proceeded to charge him with bylaw infractions unrelated to either marijuana cultivation or electrical safety violations. The inspection was triggered because his home was identified as having unusually high electricity consumption, which often goes hand in hand with indoor marijuana cultivation.

    From May to December last year, Coquitlam's Public Safety Inspection Team carried out 128 such inspections, with 88 properties found "to have hazards under the Controlled Substance Property Bylaw resulting in revoked occupancy and/or power shut-off," a city report said. Another 24 properties were suspected of being used to grow marijuana but there was insufficient evidence, while in nine cases there was no evidence of marijuana cultivation. The status of the remaining properties was not clear.

    Mayor Maxine Wilson said the program was "about improving the safety of our community and its success is a credit to the cooperative, team approach between the RCMP, fire prevention, city bylaw enforcement and building permits."

    But Smith said it has proved hazardous to his health. "I'm now on medication to keep calm because my temper was getting up," he said. "I was on sleeping pills for a while because I couldn't sleep. It's affected my health."

    He said his electricity costs were high because his home has a 40-by-20-foot electrically heated outdoor swimming pool, an electric sauna and "three kids who don't turn off a light and leave TVs playing all over the house and wear clothes once, then put them through the wash."

    Smith said when the notice appeared on his door, he immediately phoned city hall to say there had been a mistake, but no one would listen. He found an RCMP officer who agreed to come to his home and conduct a search. "This officer did an inspection and said there was no issue with it and gave me a file number. I called city hall and told them ... but they didn't care and said the inspection would take place as scheduled," said Smith.

    "Two days later they showed up. ... I had my uncle there in case I lost it. We were all standing outside in the rain and I asked why they were doing this. "They said because I had enormous electricity bills, and I gave them the spiel about the swimming pool and all the rest, but they didn't care."

    The RCMP wouldn't even let him into his own home to observe the inspection, he said. "I mean, this is my house and the city's inside and I'm being prevented from going into my own home. My uncle just shook his head. He said, 'It looks like we're living in a police state,' and I had to agree with him."

    An inspector showed him a Google Earth picture of his backyard with a garden where there was now a swimming pool.

    "I told them the pool was built by the original owner but had been filled in. When we bought the place five years ago I dug it out and restored it," he said. The 200-ampere electrical service to the pool had been approved by the city. "All this happened because I had high electricity bills," he said. "If they had done their homework they would have seen I had a 200-amp service put in for the pool because I took out a permit."

    Smith is a longtime Coquitlam resident and member of the Burquitlam Lions Club who has "raised thousands of dollars and worked thousands of hours for this community." He says the inspection threatened his reputation in the community and involved him in an expensive battle with the city.

    It also came close to mixing outrage with comedy. "For a while I considered putting on my Easter Bunny suit and sitting on the steps of city hall with a big sign saying 'Easter Cancelled -- Bunny on Strike -- see Maxine Wilson at City Hall. I think now I should have done it. I should have brought public attention to what is going on. We're living in a police state."

    Coquitlam communications manager Therese Michelson said Smith's case was unfortunate. "We look at more than high power usage, but if we had known about his pool it could have explained it," she said. Inspectors have found electrical faults in some homes and the owners were glad to have them identified, she said.

    Michelson said the city has reviewed its procedures and has reduced the inspection notice to 24 hours because 48 hours gave marijuana-growers time to clear out plants and hide evidence. The city has changed its approach to homes clearly not being used for drug production. "Based on concerns from people like Mr. Smith," the city is now telling inspectors to concentrate on life and safety issues and ignore everything else, she said.

    Grace Pastine, litigation director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, found the searches raise disturbing questions. "We feel the use of the Safety Standards Act to allow the police to enter citizens' homes without a warrant to be an unreliable reading of the act and allows it to be used as a cover to permit police entry into a home where there's a suspicion of illegal activity," said Pastine. "We don't believe there's any lawful basis for doing that and there's a substantial body of jurisprudence that upholds a citizen's right to privacy, especially in their homes."

    Surrey fire chief Len Garis admits being torn between what can be heavy-handed inspections and the need to shut down premises that are fire hazards. "In 2003, we had 15 structural fires due to marijuana-growing," Garis said. "In 2004 we had 14, so we were averaging just over one a month."

    Between March 2005 and December 2007, Surrey conducted 869 searches and found 756 premises where electrical components were compromised, likely as a result of marijuana cultivation, he said. "In 2007 we only had four such fires, which is a 70-per-cent decrease," Garis said. "So in that sense, I feel I'm fulfilling my mandate to keep the community safe."

    Another Coquitlam resident fighting city hall is Andy Lee, who with his wife and two children was evicted on the spot last June when a Public Safety Inspection team figured there was enough evidence that the Lee home on Reece Avenue displayed the signs of a growing operation.

    Hydro records showed the home was using above-average amounts of electricity. Inspectors found more than 100 large plant pots in the attic, bags of soil in the yard, bundles of bamboo rods that could be used for marijuana plant supports, a garden hose attached to a shower head in the basement, water damage to the basement floor, loose electrical wiring, a 220-volt electrical box added after the home was built, rerouted ventilation ducts and evidence of drywall alterations.

    One of the inspectors noted a white van parked near the home carrying ventilation tubes and a fan, and a police check on the licence plate showed it had been flagged by the Edmonton police's drug section. But Lee, a security guard, is adamant there was nothing illegal occurring in his home. But at the conclusion of the inspection June 20, inspectors ordered the family out. The Lees have launched a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court seeking damages.

    Lee said his family was frightened and intimidated by police, especially when an officer threatened to shoot the family dog -- a Rottweiler -- if it wasn't placed in a car. "I was scared that if the family didn't cooperate maybe they'd shoot me," said Lee, who moved to Canada from mainland China. He said family members were humiliated and ridiculed by inspectors. "My wife, who doesn't speak English, was comforting our son and one of the officers yelled at her to speak English. Why did they need to do that?"

    The inspectors put a notice on the door saying the premises had been used as a marijuana growing operation or a drug lab and occupancy was being terminated. "They told us, 'Just leave right now, pack up some clothes, the hydro is being turned off.'"

    In the months that followed his sons were taunted at school with accusations their father was running a growing operation, leading to schoolyard fights and a drop in their marks, Lee said.

    The city insists he pay a $5,000 fine for operating a marijuana operation. Lee denies it and refuses to pay. His Vancouver lawyer, Phillip Lundrie, said all the search found was a hose attached to a shower, which was used to wash the dog, and a few plant pots in the attic. "They didn't find anything but they concocted a nonsense case," Lundrie said. "It borders on the absurd and the malicious."


    Source: TheVancouver Sun
    Copyright: The Vancouver Sun 2008
    Contact: Gerry Bellett, Vancouver Sun, gbellett@png.canwest.com
    Website: Police pot search upsets homeowner

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    Wow.


    If the people do not make this stop right away, they deserve what comes next.

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    Damn, that sounds like the U.S. Reefer Madness out of control.

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    Canadians WAKE UP because this stuff is just ridiculous. I hope you don't roll over for this sort of activity. You have a great cannabis culture which the gov't is trying to destroy.

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    Between this and the guy getting 6 years after they found 18 plants by flying and searching over private property in a helicopter without a warrant...it makes me ill.

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    Man this story angers me. I really agree with boss's first post in here.


    I will NEVER let that happen to me in the states. RIDICULOUS

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    Just what I've been saying about good hard working tax paying citizens loosing everything in the in the name of the war on the decent people. Those guys weren't even a in possession of anything illegal and still had their livelihood's uprooted. Dear God, please make it stop!!!
    Let us pray...Dear lord, please help us win this struggle. We need to feel safe in our own homes and communities and that our leaders will just let us live in a peaceful manor and to be left to raise our children without fear of loosing them to an unjust cause. Please help us to have the right people elected into power that will better look after our well being and not their own agenda of tainting our society with unjust legislature, In Jesus name... AMEN!!!

    You know, the more I think about it,..thats like getting a modern day first hand look at what it probably felt like to be a Jew living in Nazi Germany in the 30's and 40's, They do have a concentration camp, the only thing missing is a gas chamber...oh, Lord...whats this world coming to? My prayers are with you BC!!!

    JE peace, From the good ol' Bible Belt!!! God Bless!!!

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    Here in Northern California in a town Called Shasta city they have come out with these new electric meters and water meters that send a satellite signal back to the station. The station can measure, track and record each persons usuage at all times of the day or night. They can tell when your HID kicks on and when it kicks off. They can tell when you draw water to shower, hydrate your plants or change out your rservoir. If you don't use water or enough electricity for 24 straight hours it alerts them to something wrong or a leak before the meter and they come looking so by passing the water wouldn't work and screwing up the wires would be noticed too so it looks like indoor growing is going to be a thing of the past pretty soon unless we make headway into new federal laws allowing a certain amount per person or decrimilization even.
    Last edited by Racefan; 05-08-2008 at 09:42 PM.

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    I will drill a well RF. Doubt I could afford a windmill, but at the prices of electricity, I would bet a bio-diesel generator would be badass.

    I will run my whole house on fryer oil and biomass :-) lol

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    I'm not sure why you would not just go through the process to become a grower for donations if you live in Cal. Or at least try to get one of those dispensary cards I'm so envious of. Geess!!! Be very glad you live in northern Cal my friend...try it here in the deep SE US...no tolerance what so ever!!! People live in constant fear here! You got room for a good ol' redneck from rebel country? lol. In all seriousness, I have been to northern Cal a few times, in fact as a kid my hippy parents took us out their to spend the whole summer up around Grass Vally and Tahoe a couple of times & I'll be honest with you, If my wife wasn't so attached to her family and me to mine, I would pack up the whole lot and settle right there in those mountains...no probs me amigo!!! And those BIG trees...my god, absolutely unbelievable...I try to describe them to my wife but, how can you get someone's brain wrapped around something that big? I just said to her..."you see that pick-up truck, & she said, yes...why? And I said that truck is as long as those trees are wide, in fact you could drive that truck through it" she got a kick out of that one.lol

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    Did you tell her they were actually one single organism?

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    Re: Police Pot Search Upsets Homeowner

    Quote Originally Posted by Boss View Post
    Did you tell her they were actually one single organism?
    No Boss, I didn't...I had forgotten that, truly amazing! The funny thing was when my mom showed my wife her Pine cone collection from Northern Cal. She has a basket full of Digger, Sugar, Sequoia & Red Wood cones and I asked my wife to guess which ones came from those Big trees and of course she thought they were the big sugar pine cones. The look on her face was priceless when we told her that in fact the little ones are from the Big trees and the big ones came from pine trees that are about the same size as our southern pines. It was the same look that all my friends had when we first got back and I showed them those cones. I've tried to explain that whole world out there but where do you start? So I just keep it short and tell them that it's kinda like what a ant probably feels like. Where all the plants and trees are bigger than life. But of course, unless you see it with your own eyes....you know.

    I've been thinking about those articles and I would like to take the liberty of rewriting the head line for those, it goes a little something like this;
    "TODAY, MEMBERS OF HITLERS ELITE SS STORM TROOPERS RAIDED TWO HOUSES OF WHICH NOTHING ILLEGAL WAS FOUND, BUT THE FAMILIES LIVES WERE LEFT IN SHAMBLES!!!" THESE FAMILIES WERE DOING NOTHING WRONG, BUT ARE STILL FACING TRUMPED UP CHARGES!!!" What an utter bunch of BULLSHIT!!!