KELOWNA – A woman licenced by Health Canada to grow marijuana for sick patients is suing the RCMP for a raid that left her home in ruins and cost her thousands of dollars in damages and lost property.
Barbara Lynn Multan, 52, says she was feeding her horse at her Joe Rich home in March 2013 when uniformed and plainclothes police came running towards her from all directions. It was right around the time the marijuana laws in the country got muddied by court decisions and the slow, awkward first steps by government to make way for medical marijuana.
But if there was any sensitivity to the new framework, it wasn't visible among the officers who moved in.
“All of a sudden I was surrounded at gunpoint and they’re telling me to drop my weapon,” she says. “I’m standing there with a plastic (rake) and they’re telling me to drop my weapon.”
According to documents filed with the court, Multan was licenced by Health Canada to grow medical marijuana for four patients with prescriptions from their doctors, and was allowed to have 381 plants. In her lawsuit, she says police told her they suspected she had more than was allowed, but would not tell her why. They also accused her of more serious crimes.
The notice alleges they shouted profanities at Multan and her family during the search, threatened to shoot her dogs and "declined to allow (Multan's) neighbour assist in caring for (her) animals in her absence."
“They were looking for hard drugs and I told them they could find some Advil in the cupboard upstairs but that’s it. They kept asking me where the hard drugs were. They confiscated my SUV, they tried to tell me my F250 was stolen, and then he tried to tell me my horse trailer was stolen.”
Multan at the time was home with her daughter, her daughter's friend and boyfriend, as well as Multan’s common-law husband and her daughter’s father.
“All of us were arrested,” she says.
The officers called it a "high-risk operation" in their response filed in court and says two of the six people on the property had criminal records.
"During the search officers did locate plants in excess of those permitted by Health Canada, unsecured and loaded firearms, a suspected energy weapon, commonly known as a taser, over $12,000 in cash as well as a vehicle and trailer whose Vehicle Identification Numbers were altered," the response says.
Multan was held in custody from 4 p.m. until late evening the next day. She says police left doors to the house open when they left and her animals went without water because power to the property was cut off.
“They raided my house, turned my house upside down, when they left, they left the doors open, my house was robbed, my animals were left on the third floor of my house so they made a mess everywhere.”
When she was released from custody, she returned to find the contents of the safe missing. She says RCMP refused to investigate or start a file.
Despite the seriousness of the allegations and the extreme measures taken by police that day, Multan and her family were never charged with a crime.
“I was actually under plant count on my medical licence,” she says. “It’s only because they counted clones that were less than 12 hours old, so they didn’t even have a root. They thought they were going to walk in here and find 5,000 square feet of pot plants. Out of the 5,000 square feet in my shop, I’m guessing maybe 800 was used for growing.”
She says although she was able to get back her vehicles and horse trailer, the raid cost her thousands of dollars and left her clients without their medicine. She has filed a notice of civil claim in Kelowna Supreme Court against RCMP Const. Kier Thompson, Const. Ash Puri and Cpl. Chris Williams.
If she is successful, it will be rare indeed to collect damages for loss of growing equipment, cash and dried bud, among other items and could be a sign to other growers that damages might be redressed if they are caught in a raid by overzealous police.
"I’m not sure I’m going to get anywhere (with the lawsuit), It’s really expensive to hire a lawyer that wants to fight the RCMP," she says. "I was doing nothing wrong. I would have loved to have somebody come through my facility and inspect it rather than destroying my house. I followed all the rules and I got taken down.”
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