Mission, British Columbia, resident Len Gratto recently experienced the wrath of local city officials who fined him $5,200 for growing cucumbers in his basement. Under current laws, municipal regulators are permitted to enter premises on suspicion that a homeowner is illegally growing marijuana — and even if no pot is found, they can levy the fines anyway.
“It’s upsetting they can do this,” explained Gratto toThe Province. “We were growing cucumbers in the basement because they wouldn’t take outside.”
Several other area residents have been wrongly targeted by officials and levied fines for engaging in legal activities as well, including Stacy Gowanlock who was order to pay roughly $10,000 in fees and “repair orders” because investigators found traces of “dirt” in her basement and “a furnace pipe going up into the chimney, where it should be.”
The grow-op bylaw programs used to search properties on the marijuana suspicions state that municipal inspectors can enterhomessimply because they use excessive amounts of water. Once inside, there is no requirement that inspectors find any actualevidenceof marijuana — they are free to levy fines if they determine the presence of what they determine to be “residual” evidence, such as soil or even high mold counts. And if residents fail to comply with the unreasonable orders, they could have their house deemed unsafe and unsellable by local officials.
Gratto, Gowanlock and others have signed on to a class-action lawsuit that says such searches are a violation of citizens’ rights. The entire process is a scam, say residents, and they would like to see the program eliminated.
Councilwoman Jenny Stevens told reporters that she no longer supports the program, despite supporting it initially, because at least half of those inspected are innocent. But in the end, they still end up having to pay lofty fines and suffer the embarrassment of having their homes raided as if they were illicit drug dealers, which is ultimately doing more harm than good.
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