Couple acquitted of marijuana trafficking, production charges for grow-op on their property

A Medstead-area couple has been acquitted of all charges stemming from the seizure of 700 marijuana plants at their property.

A Battleford judge found a Medstead-area couple not guilty of marijuana trafficking and production charges after RCMP seized 700 cannabis plants on their property.

Cory Graham and Melanie Boulette were acquitted on June 25 in Battleford Court of Queen’s Bench of possession for the purpose of trafficking, producing marijuana and possession of proceeds of crime.

Graham and Boulette were charged along with Oscar Gutierrez Reyes after RCMP seized the plants, 2.3 kilograms of packaged marijuana and more than $6,000 in cash on their rural property in September 2016. In a news release issued a week after the arrests, the RCMP called it a “sophisticated” grow op.

Reyes was tried separately. He was sentenced to five months for his role in the grow op.

Officers from the local detachment began their investigation in 2016 after a provincial conservation officer reported marijuana growing in greenhouses on Graham and Boulette’s property. Officers conducted surveillance in mid-August, then obtained a search warrant Sept. 15 and executed it the next day.

RCMP officers testified two men — Graham and Reyes — drove up to the greenhouses in a truck and emergency response team officers followed behind, set off a “flash bang” to distract them and arrested them. About 15 to 20 minutes later, Boulette drove up with the couple’s two children in a vehicle. She was not arrested, but kept under observation.

In a trailer, RCMP found expired Health Canada personal-use production licences for 449 plants issued to Reyes and to a woman for sites in Ontario.

The Crown argued that from the outset, the couple planned to eventually produce marijuana in the greenhouses. The Crown presented text message exchanges aimed at proving the couple was involved in the production of the plants and that Boulette showed a “keen interest” in marijuana. It also argued that the SaskPower feed to the residence was cut and a generator was being used.

The defence argued that the couple began work to establish a greenhouse site early in 2016, and the original discussion involved them running it jointly with Boulette’s brother to grow vegetables. After Graham fell off a ladder in the spring of 2016, they discussed what to do and Boulette’s brother told them about an acquaintance in Ontario — Reyes — who had a marijuana licence and was interested in growing the plants somewhere cheaper and sunnier.

When the couple met Reyes, he presented them with licences that expired in 2014 and were valid for a site in Ontario. Boulette told court she checked with Health Canada about the licences, but was told they could not provide her with any information. Boulette testified that she agreed to lease the five acres the greenhouses were on to Reyes after he showed her a letter stating the address for the production site was changed to that of their Medstead property.

Justice B.J. Scherman found the letter was a forgery.

In his written decision, Scherman said he believed some aspects of Graham and Boulette’s testimony and was unsure about others.

“However, in the final analysis I am unable to conclude that the accused are being dishonest when they testify that their involvement with (Reyes) was to lease the greenhouses to him and in their purported belief that the marihuana being produced by (Reyes) was being produced under valid licences,” the judge wrote.

Scherman ruled that other than Graham being present in the greenhouse at the time of his arrest, there was no evidence he was involved in the grow op in the greenhouse, and the same applied to Boulette.

Scherman said he was also not convinced, based on both direct and circumstantial evidence, that the couple ever had possession or control of the plants.

The couple had argued the cash in their possession was from the sale of a recreational trailer. Scherman noted that the plants were not yet ready to be harvested when they were seized, so the money could not be proceeds from the sale of marijuana.