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Government uses forfeiture laws to claim offenders' property

Anyone who says that the federal and provincial governments are soft on marijuana crimes may need to rethink his or her opinion. Though it is far from universal, there are a number of cases in which the government will attempt to seize an offender's property solely because he or she had a marijuana grow op on the land.

Because of criminal forfeiture laws, the government may have a claim to any land that is used in the commission of a crime. Ontarians who use their homes to grow marijuana could see the government trying to evict them and sell their homes as part of their punishment for violating the drug laws.

Of course, this does not happen with every single conviction for drug cultivation or manufacturing, but it is a real risk. Though the National Post uses an example from Alberta of the provincial government trying to seize a woman's home for growing pot on her property, it also mentions a gunsmith from northern Ontario who lost most of his family's life savings and is currently fighting to keep his home after he allowed his gun licenses to lapse.

Should the Ontario government wish to seize someone's home under a restitution, compensation or forfeiture law just because it was involved in a grow op, it may just have the power to do so.

It is also worth noting that someone convicted of a drug cultivation or manufacturing crime may also face fines, jail time and a host of other criminal penalties in addition to the risk of a major forfeiture.

Source: National Post, "When 'tough on crime' goes too far," Jesse Kline, July 9, 2014

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