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B.C. judge tiptoes through divorce assets of decades-long cannabis grow-op

Last Updated Sep 19, 2018 at 5:06 pm PST

FILE: Cannabis harvested at the CannTrust Niagara Greenhouse Facility in Fenwick, Ont., is photographed on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin)
Summary

The couple ran an illegal marijuana business for two decades

Ruling says income was received in cash, business records weren't kept, and credibility of both parties is an issue

Local lawyer says lack of paper trails can be quite common in divorce, regardless of the legality of them

VANCOUVER – A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has been placed in the difficult position of dividing assets in a divorce when the couple’s “family business” for over two decades was illegal marijuana.

Due to the illegal nature of the enterprise, the ruling says the income was received in cash, business records weren’t kept and the credibility of both parties is an issue.

RELATED: Canada legalizing marijuana

The trial before Justice Wendy Baker heard stories of thousands in cash being stored in plastic bags and buried underground to avoid detection of the illegal marijuana growing and selling operation that did business in B.C., Alberta and California.

The couple, only identified as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, were granted a divorce in the decision released online Friday and the judge divided up homes, vehicles and investments.

WATCH: The Marijuana Files: how we got here

Baker determined Mr. Smith was the main money earner as a welder and fabricator, when he wasn’t the driving force behind the grow operations, so ordered him to pay his estranged wife a lump sum of spousal support of $134,694.

The judge also set out conditions for the sale of homes in Grand Forks, B.C., Calgary and Mexico and ordered the two to stay at least 100 metres of the other’s home.

‘Paper-trailess’ divorce not uncommon, lawyer

Putting the illegality of the couple’s business aside, Chris Carta with Trial Lawyers Advocacy Group says honest lack of paper trails can be quite common in divorce.

“We see it a lot with self-employed people, realtors or a plumber sets up his own company, but he’s not necessarily going to keep accurate records,” he said, adding some people don’t pay their taxes for several years. “I think family lawyers end up spending an inordinate amount of time trying to sort that out.”

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He says cases where a divorcing couple may have gained a portion of their income from illicit drug sales, aren’t entirely uncommon.

“Maybe they sell 10 lbs a year out of their basement or they’ve got a side business, especially now with all these people who are able to get the medical production licenses,” he said.