New Brunswick

Lawsuit alleges RCMP wrongfully raided medical cannabis grow-op, then destroyed plants

Four men are suing the New Brunswick RCMP, claiming the force wrongfully raided their medical cannabis grow-op, arrested one of them and seized and later destroyed 60 mature plants.

Men seek compensation for 60 plants seized during raid at former Coles Island school

Coles Island School was a K-5 before it was closed down and purchased by Jeremy Barton to be used as a medical cannabis grow operation. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Four men are suing the New Brunswick RCMP, claiming the force wrongfully raided their medical cannabis grow-op, arrested one of them and seized and later destroyed 60 mature plants.

The statement of claim lists Jeremy Barton, Collin Barton, Nicolas Baxter and David DeWolfe as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in Fredericton Court of Queen's Bench last month.

The claim alleges actions by NB Power staff led the RCMP to investigate and later raid the Coles Island grow-op in late 2019.

Jeremy Barton was arrested and later released without being charged, but the claim says the men never got their plants back and now want to be compensated for related damages.

The RCMP and NB Power are listed as defendants, but neither has filed a statement of defence. They both declined to comment.

The allegations made in the claim have not been tested in court.

Conflict over accessing meter

The statement of claim says Jeremy Barton bought land and buildings at 11390 Route 10 in Coles Island — the site of the former Coles Island School — in January 2018. 

Two months later, the claim says, NB Power employee Trevor Smith told Collin Barton he heard the property would house a cannabis-growing facility, a conversation that concerned the property owner.

The claim details concerns the four men had over several months regarding NB Power staff accessing the property's power meter, which was inside the building.

The claim says NB Power and Jeremy Barton, who lived in the building, had an agreement the utility would give notice before going on the property to read the meter. But in January 2019, an NB Power employee entered without doing this. 

RCMP get involved

Around March 29, 2019, NB Power filed a complaint with the RCMP in Sussex, reporting that one of its employees was tasked with disconnecting power at the property and needed a police escort to do so.

"[NB Power] falsely indicated to the RCMP that Plaintiff J. Barton had been violent towards an [NB Power] employee in the past, threatening to hurt them and to release his dog after them," the statement of claim says.

According to the claim, the property was Jeremy Barton's primary residence and the location all four men used to register their medical cannabis grow-op with Health Canada.

The men were licensed by Health Canada to grow a total of 84 indoor plants and 29 outdoor plants, according to the claim.

That day, RCMP launched an investigation into the operation and contacted Health Canada for information about the men's licences, the claim says.

No sign of plants after raid

In September 2019, the RCMP executed a search warrant on the property and arrested Jeremy Barton on site and seized his keys and deed to the property, as well as 25 outdoor cannabis plants and 35 indoor cannabis plants, according to the claim.

"All plants that were seized were mature and ready to be harvested," the claim says.

The claim alleges that the responding officer, Const. Peter Marshall, refused to review the Health Canada paperwork associated with the licences registered at the property.

After the raid, the RCMP disclosed the site of the grow-op to the public, which "in effect, endangers the plaintiffs and the property and increased the risk and concerns of a home invasion," the claim says

In September 2019, the RCMP announced in a news release that it raided an illegal cannabis grow-op in the building formerly housing Coles Island School, at 11390 Route 10 in Coles Island.

At the time, Sgt. Jim MacPherson with the Sussex RCMP said a 46-year-old man was arrested and released and would later face charges in court.

But no charges were ever laid against Barton and his court appearances were cancelled.

The claim also alleges the items seized have been unlawfully withheld from the men, and they have not been compensated for the loss of the medical cannabis the Mounties took away.

Case damaged property, reputation

The claim does not give a dollar value of the cannabis plants.

The men filing the suit say the RCMP failed to conduct its investigation in a thorough manner and provided inaccurate and misleading information to the court to obtain a search warrant, the claim says.

NB Power is liable for damages from the actions of its employee, the claim says.

The men are seeking damages for property destruction, legal expenses, embarrassment and injury to their reputation and esteem.