The RCMP is defending its seizure of several cannabis plants from a grow-op in 2019, alleging that the operators were growing more plants than they were legally allowed.
Several other plants being grown at the former site of Coles Island School were also seized and destroyed because they were being grown by someone who wasn't authorized to grow them, says a statement of defence filed Tuesday, April 6 in Fredericton Court of Queen's Bench.
The statement of defence names the RCMP, RCMP Const. Peter Marshall, NB Power, and NB Power employee Trevor Smith as defendants.
It was filed in response to a statement of claim by Jeremy Barton, Collin Barton, Nicolas Baxter and David DeWolfe, who alleged that actions by NB Power staff led the RCMP to investigate and later raid the grow-op in Coles Island — about 80 kilometres east of Fredericton — in late 2019.
The claim alleges Jeremy Barton was arrested and later released without being charged, but that the men never got their plants back and now want to be compensated for them, along with legal expenses and injury to their reputation and esteem.
The allegations have not been tested in court.
NB Power staff refused on property
The statement of defence alleges on or about March 29, 2019, NB Power requested that an RCMP member escort one of their staff onto the property at 11390 Route 10, Coles Island, N.B., to disconnect the power there.
The statement says Jeremy Barton had refused to allow NB Power employees access to check the electricity meter, and had been "verbally abusive" to NB Power employees on previous occasions, once swatting the keys out of an employee's hands.
RCMP Const. Nicholas Haley went to the property with an NB Power employee to "keep the peace."
The statement says Jeremy Barton became irate and each time he entered and exited the building he was careful to lock the door to the building behind him.
Each time the door to the property was opened, Haley could smell cannabis from inside, the statement says.
Health Canada called to confirm growing licences
On Aug. 12, 2019, the RCMP contacted Health Canada and learned of four registrations for production of cannabis for medical purposes, with each listing the former school site as the address, according to the statement.
The statement says RCMP learned Jeremy Barton was registered to produce up to 35 cannabis plants indoors, Collin Barton was registered to produce up to 49 indoors, Nicolas Baxter was registered to produce up to 10 outdoors, and David DeWolfe was registered to produce up to 19 outdoors.
Thus, in total, the four men could produce a total of 84 cannabis plants indoors and 29 outdoors, the statement says.
The statement says on Sept. 5, 2019, one of its officers received information that in July 2019, an employee of the municipal parks department had seen marijuana plants at the property numbering between 150 and 200.
Const. Peter Marshall also observed what he estimated to be at least 50 plants outdoors on the property, the statement says.
Statement claims no responsibility to compensate men
The statement says on Sept. 20, 2019, RCMP members executed a search and seizure at the property, where they found 119 marijuana plants growing indoors and 26 growing outdoors.
Jeremy Barton produced all of the cannabis plants, including the 26 found outdoors, "contrary to what he was authorized to do pursuant to his registration," the statement says.
The statement says 61 cannabis plants and 65 mushrooms were seized and not returned, adding the seizure was lawful.
The statement says Jeremy Barton was arrested at the scene and later released. His scheduled court appearance was later cancelled as the RCMP did not submit information to the court to charge him, the statement says.
The statement says none of the four men made an application for the return of the cannabis plants within 60 days of the seizure. The statement says "in any event, there is no authority for compensation to a person for unlawful substances."
The statement says the court should decline any award of damages to the four men, as that would be contrary to the principle that courts do not compensate claimants for wrongdoing, including "utilizing personal production registrations as cover for production by a single person, specifically [Jeremy] Barton."
The statement also says the defendants deny the men suffered any injury, damage or loss.
"Further, if the plaintiffs suffered any injury, damage or loss... the plaintiffs failed to properly, or at all, mitigate those injuries, damages or loss," the statement says.