UK: Illegal $2-million pot operation in Chelmsford just a misunderstanding

A misunderstanding over a medical marijuana grow operation in Chelmsford led to the execution of a Cannabis Act search warrant and 19 charges against three members of the same family.

The case ended in Sudbury court as a judge issued a conditional discharge and one-year probation order to one family member.

Heather Savoie, 64, pleaded guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice on Monday to not complying with the conditions of her Health Canada licence under the federal Cannabis Act.

Justice Patrice Band, accepting a joint sentencing submission from federal prosecutor Denys Bradley and lawyer Berk Keaney, who was assisting Savoie as a friend of the court, said the suggested outcome was “a reasonable one” in the circumstances for the woman, who had no prior record.

“What we have here is someone who was licensed at the time to grow a certain number of plants inside,” he said. “She jumped the gun and grew plants outside without having permission, in contravention of the law.”

As a result of Heather Savoie’s guilty plea, Bradley dropped eight other charges she was facing.

The federal prosecutor also withdrew eight charges laid against her husband, David Savoie, who was self-represented, and two against son Derek, whom Keaney was representing.

The 19 charges were a mix of offences under the Cannabis Act and fire code violations.

The court heard that on Aug. 1, 2020, an Ontario Provincial Police plane flying over Greater Sudbury detected an outside marijuana grow operation in Chelmsford. 

Officers then launched an investigation.

It was determined three individuals connected to the Morgan Road property – Heather, David and Derek Savoie – all had medical marijuana grow licences for a total of 1,179 plants.

However, the licences stipulated the plants were to be grown indoors.

When a search warrant was executed at the property the following month, officers found “there were some plants being grown indoors, but the vast majority were being grown outdoors,” said Bradley.

Keaney said the Savoies had been authorized to grow plants indoors, but applied in August of 2020 to be able to grow plants outdoors, as well.

“They expected to get permission,” he said. “But they had not received the permission to transfer from indoors to outdoors.”

“There was a licence,” said Bradley, in his sentencing submission. “(But) when Health Canada issues these types of licences, it expects people to abide by the conditions. Miss Savoie did not do so.”

Bradley said issuing a conditional discharge to Heather Savoie would not be contrary to the public interest.

If Heather Savoie stays out of the courts over the next year, she will not have a criminal record.

According to Greater Sudbury Police, the search warrant was executed Sept. 1 by members of the service’s drug enforcement, intelligence, break, enter and robbery and rural units, along with members of the OPP.

Over two days, a search of the property revealed a large outdoor grow operation with about 1,000 cannabis plants for which the property owners did not have a licence.

Upon searching the residence and outbuildings on the property, a “sophisticated cannabis resin extraction lab” was uncovered. This lab posed an obvious danger to the officers, as well as the public, said police.

The total estimated value of the seizure was about $2 million in cannabis and $143,625 in lab equipment. 

Officers seized about 1,000 cannabis plants worth $1 million; about 104.5 pounds of dried cannabis with a value of $261,250; about 111 pounds of cannabis resin (hash oil) worth $610,500; and 22.5 pounds of suspected cannabis butter, with a value of $123,750.

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