Two men busted in 2010 at a Chilliwack opium field were sentenced to house arrest after a judge rejected Crown counsel's valuation of the poppy crop.
The crop did not contain half a million poppy plants valued at several million dollars, Judge Roy Dickey ruled at a sentencing hearing Wednesday for Abbotsford's Tehal Singh Bath and Mission's Mandeep Singh Dhaliwal.
Bath and Dhaliwal had pleaded guilty to charges of drug production and possession for the purpose of trafficking charges after being found at the Keith Wilson Road opium field in 2010.
The opium was destined to be used in doda, a powder used to make tea that provides a high similar to, but much milder than, the sensation caused
by other opium products like morphine and heroin.
Chilliwack might be a great place to grow corn, but it's apparently not ideal for opium. Dickey cited an expert's testimony that opium plants grown in the Lower Mainland were likely to produce fewer pods containing less-potent narcotics.
"Chilliwack has a poor climate for the production of the opium poppy," Dickey said. "The fact it was growing here at all shows the lack of sophistication of the offenders."
Dickey ruled that the field likely contained between 120,000 and 240,000 opium plants-far fewer than the RCMP's estimation of 566,000.
He also said those plants would have produced just a tenth of Crown counsel's estimated doda yield. Instead of a crop of 1,200 to 3,000 kilograms of doda, as one expert witness for the Crown had suggested the field could produce, Dickey ruled the growers would likely reap just 120 to 240 kilograms of doda from their crop.
Combined with the likelihood that the crop would be sold wholesale, Dickey estimated the doda's worth at between $120,000 and $240,000. That number is less than a tenth of Crown counsel's valuation.
Bath and Dhaliwal are believed to be the first people in Canada to be sentenced for producing opium for doda. "This is an unusual case for these courts," Dickey said.
Dhaliwal and Bath were both present when the lease for the field was signed with the property's owner. But that meeting included a fourth person, for whom defence counsel Ian Donaldson had previously suggested Dhaliwal and Bath worked.
Dickey took that into account. "I find I have no evidence that either [Dhaliwal or Bath] was the operating mind of the enterprise," he said Thursday.
Neither Dhaliwal nor Bath have criminal records, and Dickey accepted submissions that both were genuinely remorseful for their participation in the opium operation.
He sentenced both to serve two-yearsless-a-day in the community. In addition to abiding by a curfew, each will also have to perform 240 hours of community service.
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