N.B. soldier found guilty of distributing cannabis-laced cupcakes to Armed Forces

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OROMOCTO, N.B. — A New Brunswick soldier accused of serving cannabis-laced cupcakes to a group of Canadian Armed Forces members taking part in a 2018 live-fire training exercise was found guilty Wednesday on nine charges.

Military Judge Cmdr. Sandra Sukstorf told the court the actions of Bombardier Chelsea Cogswell were "shockingly unacceptable."

Cogswell was convicted on eight counts of administering a noxious substance and on one charge of disgraceful conduct. A charge of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline was stayed.

The noxious substance charges fall under the Criminal Code, while the more serious charge of disgraceful conduct is under the National Defence Act and carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Cogswell was accused of serving the cupcakes to eight soldiers while operating a mobile field canteen on July 21, 2018, on 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown in New Brunswick. The soldiers were taking part in Exercise Common Gunner — a major live-fire training exercise involving about 150 personnel — using large howitzer guns.

The affected soldiers had to stop their role in the exercise when they became ill and complained of feeling paranoid and anxious.

Testimony during the court martial described soldiers who were wandering around places they shouldn't have been while others were laughing and giggling. At one point it was reported that group of people fell down laughing.

Sukstorf told the court she was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Cogswell was responsible.

"You added the cannabis into the cupcakes or alternatively, you were aware the ingredients you added had cannabis in it," Sukstorf said. "You were aware of the effects the cannabis could produce, and you distributed the cupcakes to the troops from the mobile canteen."

Sukstorf said people were driving trucks, setting up large howitzer guns and handling ammunition while impaired. "These circumstances presented a potential for significant harm including death," she said.

"In this case there indeed was evidence of harm in terms of the physical mind-altering effects suffered by the complainants," the judge told the court. "The interference in their bodily integrity by the introduction of drugs, that they did not consent to, as well as the fact the exercise was interrupted and training was affected."

Cogswell did not testify in her own defence, but two videotaped statements given to military police were played for the court during the court martial.

A sentencing hearing will be held in November.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2021.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

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