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Part of cannabis laws and regulations

A homeowner in Revelstoke is outraged that the local RCMP in her small southeastern B.C. community raided her property after an off-duty Mountie taking part in a community fundraiser spotted three small cannabis plants in her garden.

Anna Minten said she returned home from a date with her husband last Friday night to find the lights on at her two-storey house and an RCMP warrant near the front door stating that the couple had been growing “non-medical cannabis that is visible from a public place” in violation of provincial cannabis law.

Ms. Minten said her tenant arrived just as five officers in three vehicles were leaving after a two-hour search of the property.

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The warrant, which Ms. Minten forwarded to The Globe and Mail, states that a local constable spotted the violation on July 28, which is when Ms. Minten said she and 12 other local gardeners welcomed nearly 100 members of the public onto their properties for an art-and-garden tour in support of a local food-bank program.

Ms. Minten, who grows vegetables for the program, said she and her neighbours are shocked that police put resources into raiding her home to seize three plants, which she said were about two to three feet high and indistinguishable from 50 metres away on her dead-end street.

“To take out a search warrant and to enter my home seems like a major violation of my privacy and my rights,” said Ms. Minten, an alternative health practitioner. “This has been a big wake-up call.”

Ms. Minten said neither she nor her husband have been charged, but an investigation is continuing.

The federal law that went into effect last October allows adults to grow up to four cannabis plants for every residence. But different provinces have different rules governing how to do that.

The RCMP issued a news release on Tuesday afternoon warning residents that they need to follow the letter of provincial and federal law if they intend to grow cannabis plants. Under B.C.'s Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, the plants can be considered in view of the public even if the "public has access as of right or by invitation, express or implied, whether or not a fee is charged for entry.”

Corporal Mike Esson of the Revelstoke RCMP said in the release: “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.”

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The release confirmed that a local Mountie saw the plants during the self-guided charity tour, which was “advertised as a fun event for all ages.”

Ms. Minten said she would have removed or moved the plants if the off-duty Mountie had told her of the violation at the time. She said she hopes her case clears up how these new laws are being enforced and holds the RCMP accountable.

John Conroy, leader of a legal team that won a constitutional challenge forcing Health Canada to overhaul its rules on growing medical marijuana, said it will be interesting to see if provincial Crown prosecutors take the case to court. Under B.C.'s law, a first-time offender can be fined up to $5,000, imprisoned for up to three months or both.

He said the incident underscores how the provincial rule prohibiting the farming of cannabis within public view is “extremely broad.”

“Is it a problem if you can see a tobacco plant?” he said. “Tobacco can kill, cannabis can’t.”

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