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Ex-cop says he was growing medicinal marijuana

By Hempology | June 30, 2007

Winnipeg Free Press, MB
28 Jun 2007
Mike McIntyre


Marijuana For Medicinal Use, Lawyer Argues

A retired Winnipeg police officer who recently came under scrutiny for his role in the wrongful conviction of James Driskell has been charged with running a marijuana grow operation in his home.

Bill VanderGraaf, 56, was arrested in April after police received a tip that he was allegedly manufacturing drugs in the basement of his East Kildonan home.

Investigators found a total of 21 plants along with growing equipment such as two bulbs, three fans, four timers, a thermometer and a dehumidifier, according to court documents. 

VanderGraaf was charged with production and possession of marijuana and made his first court appearance this week after being released on a promise to appear in court.

“What can I say? I’m not going to hide behind these issues,” VanderGraaf told the Free Press in a telephone interview Wednesday.

He has hired defence lawyer Jay Prober and plans to fight the allegations in court on the basis he was growing pot for “medicinal purposes”.

“I’ve got some serious health issues, and some members of my family do as well.  This was just being grown for my own personal use,” said VanderGraaf.

Canadians can apply to Health Canada for a licence that lets you grow or possess pot if it can be proven there is a viable medical need.  VanderGraaf had made no such application and was not exempt under the Criminal Code, according to police.

VanderGraaf wouldn’t disclose specifics of his health issues, but Prober said they will attempt to get medical documentation for court.

Prober also took issue with the police investigation, which included obtaining a search warrant on the belief that up to 200 plants might be found inside VanderGraaf’s home.

According to the affidavit to obtain the warrant police first began investigating VanderGraaf April 18.

A “concerned citizen of Winnipeg” came forward with information about the retired officer which police said they found to be truthful.  The informant wasn’t named in the court documents “for fear of reprisal should an arrest and charges result from this information.”

Police state the informant is requesting a reward for supplying the tip to police, which included the claim that “a couple of hundred” plants in various stages of growth were in VanderGraaf’s basement.

Several officers began an investigation which consisted of some brief surveillance of the retired officer’s home.  Police said they detected a strong odour of marijuana coming from the residence while walking by it on several occasions.

Police said they had “no doubt” the smell was coming from VanderGraaf’s home.  They also obtained Manitoba Hydro records which showed a sharp rise in energy consumption since March.

A warrant was issued on April 25 and executed later that day.  Prober said most of the 21 plants found by police were “little babies”.

“The police were given wrong information,” said Prober.

VanderGraaf retired a few years ago but was a central figure in the 1990 murder investigation of Perry Dean Harder in which Driskell was arrested, charged and eventually convicted.

Driskell served 12 years in prison before DNA testing key to the case revealed three hairs found on Harder didn’t belong to him.

VanderGraaf’s next court date on the drug charges is Aug.  7.

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