Saanich home first to be seized

Saanich home first to be seized.

Kim Westad, Times Colonist Staff
May 17 1997, Victoria, B.C.

A Saanich home was seized by the federal government Friday, the first in
Canada since tough new drug legislation went into effect two days ago.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act allows the federal Crown to apply
to seize homes that have been “substantially altered” to grow marijuana.

Police searched the Saanich home Thursday and found three seperate grow
rooms and a converted garage with more than 400 marijuana plants, said
federal prosecutor Ernie Froess.

Two seperate airflow systems had been set up in the house, allowing
ventilation for the plants, Froess said. This included holes cut through
two floors for air circulation. A 200-amp electrical panel had been
installed to power the marijuana production, Froess said.
A walk-in closet was converted into an electrical room, and an en suite
bathroom had become a fertilizer storage area.

Froess successfully applied Friday in B.C. Supreme Court for a restraint
order on the house, valued at $372,000. “You can’t seize property and take
it back to the police station for evidence, so we [the Crown]applied for a
restraint order,” Froess said. The order prohibits the homeowner —
believed to be the one growing the marijuana — from selling the house or
making further changes to it.

Most marijuana grow operations are found in rented homes. The
homeowners, who can’t be identified at this point for legal reasons, can
continue living there, and must comply with all municipal bylaws, including
paying taxes.

Charges have not yet been laid, but are expected next week. If
convicted, the Crown would then apply for the home to be forfeited to the
federal government. It would be sold, with money going into general
government coffers. The order can be appealed, particularly because it was
done ex parte — without notice to the homeowner or his lawyer. That
means they weren’t present at the hearing. “The rationale is that should the
[homeowner]or his lawyer be given notice in advance of the application for
the restraining order, they might attempt to transfer the property to
someone else before the Crown could make the application,” Froess said.