Canada: Supreme Court Clarifies Asset Forfeiture Law, Allows Graduated Sanctions

In its first review of Canada's asset forfeiture laws, the Canadian Supreme court ruled last Friday that the government could not seize the home of a Vancouver woman who grew marijuana there. In Craig v. Crown, the court decided 5-2 that Judy Ann Craig could keep her home even though she was convicted of growing more than $100,000 worth of marijuana there.
Canadian Supreme Court (Philippe Landreville,
But in two related cases, the high court ruled 4-3 to uphold a partial forfeiture order against a Quebec man and voted unanimously to uphold the seizure of a home belonging to a Surrey, BC, couple who bought it solely to grow marijuana. The trio of decisions means that Canadian judges must weigh the particulars of each case and can issue escalating forfeiture orders depending on the circumstances of each case.

"Full forfeiture may be anticipated, for example, in the case of a fortified property purchased for criminal purposes and solely dedicated to the commercial production and distribution of illegal substances, perhaps with a connection to organized crime," Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the court majority. "On the other hand, one might decline to order forfeiture in the case of an individual with no criminal record and no connection to organized crime who grows very little marijuana in her home."

The rulings also direct lower courts to consider asset forfeiture separately from jail sentences or fines so that defendants are not allowed to in effect buy their way out of jail. "Those without property should not be treated more harshly than those who have it," Abella wrote. "In my view, the loss or retention of liberty should not depend on whether an individual has property available as a sacrificial alternative."

Craig, 57, had no criminal record when she began growing for a friend with AIDS in 1998. But she admitted making about $100,000 a year off her operation and had 186 plants when busted in 2003. Still, she was considered a small-time player with no ties to gangs. She served a one-year probationary sentence and paid a $100,000 fine for unpaid taxes and a victim surcharge of $15,000.

Craig's attorney, Howard Rubin, told The Canadian Press that he was thrilled with results. "She's not a career criminal. She's not a Hell's Angel. She's a lady, 57 years old, who works really hard," he said, adding that she currently worked as a wholesaler. "This was a huge weight on her that has now been relieved. This tool of forfeiture can wind up being really oppressive if it's used against people who have small grow operations, no record and no involvement with organized crime -- which is Ms. Craig."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

It is so cold in Canada...

that everybody has to dress like Santa Claus.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School