Will eight Lillooet residents get away pot-free after bust?

Eight people from the Lillooet area and one person from Lytton were among the 14 people arrested by Merritt RCMP after police discovered $11 million worth of marijuana growing in a forested area about 60 kilometres west of the Nicola Valley community.

On Oct. 9, Merritt RCMP found, seized and began to destroy approximately 14,000 ready to harvest plants located in several plots approximately 60 kilometres west of Merritt near the Skuhun Creek Forest Service Road.

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No one was around at the time, but while eradicating the plants that same day, police at the site also searched for evidence of someone who could be linked to the grow-op.

Merritt RCMP Sgt. Norm Flemming said two officers were left on site at about 8 p.m. to act as security because there was “a substantial amount of dope left out there.

“Our main crew went back to their vehicles and left the area,” he told the Merritt Herald.

Approximately 10 minutes after they left, a pickup truck carrying six men hauling harvesting tools and rubber bins arrived at the grow-op location.

As the six were arrested, more vehicles began showing up.

“In total five vehicles showed up there, one with an attached trailer and a quad,” said Sgt. Flemming, adding that all of the people within had harvesting equipment with them.

Because of the remote location of the grow-op, no cell service was available for the men who first encountered the police to warn anyone else on their way to the grow-op, the sergeant said.

The two officers radioed for backup when they arrested the six initial suspects.

“The teams went back out and vehicles just started arriving. It was comical in a lot of respects,” Sgt. Flemming said.

In all, 13 men and one woman were arrested.

In addition to the eight people from Lillooet and one from Lytton, one was from Grand Forks, two were from the Lower Mainland, one was from Lloydminster, Alta., and one was from Mexico.

The suspects were released from police custody the next day.

“Can we prove that we were there to harvest? Not officially, so you build a circumstantial case because that’s all we really had,” said Sgt. Flemming,

He said it would be challenging to lay charges against the suspects. None of the people arrested admitted to being at the remote grow-op to harvest the marijuana.

“The law surrounding the prosecution of narcotics is very finite,” said Flemming, adding that convictions under such circumstances are rare in Canada.

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