Sunday, March 15, 2015
Bibhans Vaze vs. RCMP Corporal Shane Holmquist (Allard vs Queen, Week 2, Day 4)
Also available at Cannabis in Canada in 5 parts!
Objective Research is Important & Spot Audits
Methodology is Important, Public Health and Safety, and more
Investigating MMAR Sites and Organized Crime
Hell's Angels Medallion & Excess Plants and Did Corporal Holmquist Cry?
Holmqvist's Confirmation Bias and The Crown's Redirect
Read the whole thing after the jump
Objective Research is Important
Mr. Bibhans Vaze had the pleasure of cross-examining RCMP Corporal Shane Holmquist on day four, week two of Allard. By lunchtime Justice Phelan was asking for Holmquist's expertise certificate. The expert report was essentially fictitious. Vaze's questioning was unrelenting. All in all it was seven hours of entertainment.
The expert report was simple, according to Corporal Holmquist. He answered these four issues: criminal abuses with personal production of cannabis, health and safety concerns faced by law enforcement in investigating grows/gardens, the RCMP involvement in screening applicants in MMPR, and his own inspections of the some the new LPs.
Vaze asked if it be fair to call Corporal Holmquist a researcher.
There was a pause for a few seconds before he answered, “Yes.”
An objective researcher?
Someone who is not influenced by personal feelings or opinions when considering and representing facts, would that be fair?
Corporal Holmquist agreed, “Yes.”
Vaze asked a hypothetical. If Frank is an ill person, then it wouldn't be proper to just look at Frank and say he appears to be well. You'd have to conduct a further study of his overall well being.
Couldn't say, Holmquist was not a physician.
But it's a common sense question, Vaze pressed. You can't just look at Frank and determine if he is ill. You have to look further.
“Yes,” said Holmquist.
And if you're being objective you have to look at all parts of the data.
Vaze then started talking about the history of the Ottoman Empire, in particular their sieges of Vienna. What was the point of this? Vaze was basically feeling out the Holmquist, getting a sense of his understanding of cause and effect. Would it be fair, Vaze asked, to characterize your expertise regarding the MMAR to the social and behavioral sciences standard?
Holmquist didn't understand, so Vaze had to explain the different type of sciences. The “hard” sciences of physics, chemistry, and biology, and the “soft” social and behavioural sciences. So in that respect, Holmquist's expert report was akin to the social and behavioural sciences.
Holmquist disagreed. His job was to provide examples of abuse, so he did.
But Vaze pressed, he couldn't point to any scientific method or methodology used?
Holmquist answered that he was not a scientific researcher or academic. He is a Corporal of the RCMP that put together a report that references mostly other police reports.
Vaze asked one more question before putting methodology away for a little later. It was about method. If one posed a question that didn't have an answer or an unsatisfactory answer, one could conduct new research or go through historic data. All one would have to do is ask questions. If the data in the report was, in the researcher's view, incomplete, it required additional research. Holmquist agreed.
Aside from his export report, Mr. Holmquist's affidavit consisted of his curriculum vitae: his law enforcement experience; his past work. While he was a corrections officer, he did a Bachelors Degree from SFU in General Studies. The program was designed specifically for people in the justice field.
“In assisting the court with your expertise,” said Bibhans Vaze, “you have to have proper qualifications to give this expertise. One thing that is important would be to ensure that both reports and CV are comprehensive with research conducted and experience had respecting your expertise in your expert report.” In other words in compiling this report you took great care to put together the best of his ability. Not to leave anything out, correct?
“To the best of my ability.” Holmquist answered.
Holmquist has spoken to numerous MMAR growers and drug experts, over 100 grow-op investigations, etc. But there was nothing specific in his training about “marijuana grow operations.” He has no training in statistics nor did he take a course in statistics during his BA course. Vaze confirmed that he didn't have any experience in botany or cannabis harvesting either.
Vaze asked some sharp questions about Holmquist's credentials as an expert opinion in previous cases. Holmquist was not qualified for a tax-evasion cannabis case, nor was a report he compiled for court purposes entered. Although there was some disagreement over that. He said he's generally not qualified for opinion expert reports. He puts them together for the Fraser Valley RCMP and with the exception of one or two, they almost never get entered in as evidence.
Looking at the cases in the affidavit, some of them involved Corporal Holmquist himself. But, Holmquist added, not in a primary role. There were only a couple where he was on scene and actually dismantled the grow (so I guess he's got some cannabis experience) but he did not collect evidence or interview witnesses. This was the extent of his involvement on these “two or three” cases.
Holmquist had no statistics. That was a major problem with his expert report, according to Vaze. Vaze was only beginning the onslaught. He said, “All the things that could assist you in your research in understanding in this complicated area, have not been compiled.”
“I never took statistics,” said Holmquist
“If you had, it would assist you in research.”
Vaze read off Holmquist's affidavit. He had spoke to cannabis growers about cycles, plant yield, production, distribution and other issues. But there were no numbers. No hard data. Holmquist said there was three instances where he had spoken to an MMAR grower. Most of them were illicit growers.
Vaze asked about Holmquist's cannabis experience. If by harvesting, Vaze meant “cutting down the plants,” then yes, Holmquist has “done that hundreds of times.” But Vaze didn't mean it like that. He meant growing, or making the plants into a usable product. To which case Holmquist admitted to never having done so. Nevertheless, Vaze emphasized that harvesting was when one took a plant and turned it into a product. Like what farmers do with wheat or barely.
Vaze confirmed that Holmquist was aware of peer-reviewed journals and that before an article can be published, correct methodology would be looked at as a prerequisite. Holmquist confirmed that. He said he had never had anything published in a peer-reviewed journal.
“No official publications whatsoever involved with marijuana?” Vaze asked.
“That's correct,” Holmquist answered.
Mr. Holmquist's education cannabis culture, consumption and production came through books, articles, and videos. But not the same thing you or I may read.
This was RCMP. His report didn't list any publications. No peer-reviewed articles. Vaze made a crack about Mr. Holmquist's expertise in observation of people rolling joints, smoking them and being under the influence.
“Many teenagers in BC have likely seen the same thing,” said Vaze
“It's possible,” replied Holmquist.
Vaze asked if Holmquist was aware of the different regulations among different departments at various levels of government.
Yes of course, he said.
And that regulations are there to protect the population?
And abuses of the regulations do exist?
“Notwithstanding abuses of regulation, the reaction is not to simply shut down the industry in response,” said Vaze
“Yes,” responded Holmquist.
“There might be lots of laws, but it's inevitable there will be some violation of those laws,”
“Potentially,” he said.
Let's say we had a 10,000 person industry, went Vaze's example, if 5 people were abusing that industry, it wouldn't be reasonable to shut down the entire industry, fair enough?
And if there were 25 abusers among those 10,000?
“Stop those 25 people,” Holmquist said automatically.
But it doesn't mean the other 9975 are abusing that industry.
“Correct,” replied Holmquist.
Vaze then asked if Holmquist was aware of spot audits, like tax investigations. Canada Revenue Agency could spot audit anyone. And what's reasonable about that, said Vaze, is that if one didn't know it was going to happen, it was an incentive to always follow the rules.
“Yes,” Holmquist readily agreed.
Vaze said the problem with the inspections in Holmquist's expert report was that there were so few of them. Holmquist said it was a resource issue and Vaze agreed. There were too many production sites, 15,000 in BC alone, to inspect every single one of them. But it's a regulatory industry, there was nothing to prevent spot audits for particular sites.
But Holmquist maintained that this is too difficult. Health Canada can't go on private property without the consent of the owner or without a warrant. Health Canada nor the RCMP are the CRA.
So with an inability to inspect, Vaze said, “you don't really know what you’re talking about.” This was just the beginning of Vaze's merciless take-down of Corporal Holmquist. “There was nothing preventing spot audits.”
“Nothing stopping Health Canada,” Holmquist explained, “I don't have authority to issue a warrant. Health Canada would have to contact police.”
Vaze tried to get a clear answer from Holmquist about what exactly prevented Health Canada or the RCMP from conducting spot audits on MMAR patients. If these gardens were such a danger to public safety, surely a spot-audit system could be put in place fairly easily. But Holmquist wouldn't give a clear answer.
Methodology is Important
As proceedings continued, Bibhans Vaze asked the RCMP’s Shane Holmquist if he was aware of random data sampling analysis.
“Not specifically”, answered Holmquist.
Vaze explained: If you had a population, or a grouping, it'd be important to take an accurate sample of the population. Especially if one was trying to determine behaviour characteristics. Vaze used an example of a population of 1000 where one person says they will vote for Party X. It's not reasonable to assume that a vast majority would vote X, is it?
“Correct,” answered Holmquist.
Vaze continued: An appropriate methodology would be to take a sample of the target population. You'd want to make sure the 1000 people were spread out. Don't take your poll in one quarter of the area either, if you want to be truly representative. It would be helpful – if not a requirement – said Vaze, to engage in that random sampling analysis.
“Yes,” said Holmquist.
Vaze put to Holmquist: “All the conclusions you reach in your expert report, in respect to organized crime and public health and safety issues relating to MMAR, at no time did you engage in a random sampling analysis of the entirely of population.”
“Correct,” he answered, “but it is difficult to do that sample.”
“Let's go back to your CV,” said Vaze, turning everyone to the appropriate book. “I don't see anything indicating that you have engaged in systematic research in respects to marijuana growing. Everything you learned has come from investigations were you were involved in.”
So the problem, according to Vaze, was that Holmquist didn't try to do a random sampling analysis of the MMAR growers.
“Correct,” said Holmquist, “it is outside my expertise.” But he also blamed Health Canada for not sharing information with him.
“You never thought of going out and doing questionnaires? You're aware that all plaintiffs have disclosed all kinds of personal information. You could have – but you didn't – go out and ask the questions.” Vaze said.
“It would not be proper, to ignore data which is available.”
Did Holmquist know about comparative analysis? Apparently not. Vaze had to explain it to him. Holmquist said in his expert report that toxic mold might be a program in MMAR gardens, although the report said grow sites or grow operations. Vaze suggested looking at one type of a facility, such as an LP, and comparing that to an MMAR grower. One would want to make sure the comparative is also subject to random sampling. If one has compared product A to product B, it essential to know that product B may consist of 10,000 units. So when asking about mold, one should consider how big a problem mold is in general.
“Right,” agreed Holmquist.
“There is no comparative analysis in your expert report on mold?” Vaze asked.
“One occasion you observed mold. Just one?”
“I've seen it on a few occasions”
Vaze blasted him for not taking into account how prevalent mold is in the Lower Mainland. Not a single systematic study.
“You could have got that information from health authorities. You didn't incorporate it. No comparison analysis throughout the expert report.”
“I compared the MMAR to the MMPR,” said Holmquist.
“That's legislation. That's different.” Vaze replied.
But back to random sampling analysis. The expert report made reference to “monster plants.” Holmquist had written that the only inference that can be drawn from monster plants was to sell the excessive production.
“What you haven't done is a random sample of “monster plants,”” said Vaze.
He blasted Holmquist for not knowing how many people were actually growing “monster plants” and what they actually do with them. It was not a reasonable inference. Holmquist hadn't engaged in any analysis.
But Holmquist shot back, “The licenses for number of plants is tied to dosage.” If someone had a license for 50 plants and they are producing three pounds a piece, according to Holmquist they are overproducing and the only inference to be drawn is that the excess will be sold on the black market.
“The inference is pure conjecture,” said Vaze.
But Holmquist maintained that if one were allowed 50 plants and grew 50 monster plants, the only inference was that the excess would be sold to the black market. Vaze wouldn't have it: The only logical reason to grow monster plants is to traffic the excess marijuana?
“Based on the discussion we had and the lack of research you've done. You'd agree with me that that statement is purely conjecture.”
Holmquist tried to dodge the questioning as long as he could. Vaze was persistent that Holmquist's statements were based on no facts from any kind of data sampling analysis.
“Correct,” said Holmquist.
“I take it from your CV,” said Vaze, “that you have come here more as an advocate for the defendant than an expert.”
“No.” Holmquist was stern.
“Well you have no research plan.”
“You never asked yourself the question are there abuses under the MMAR.”
“I researched what was asked of me,” said Holmquist. He claimed not to support one side or the other.
An expert opinion didn't take sides.
“But you didn't have a wider research plan other than police reports,” Vaze answered.
Holmquist spoke to other police officers.
“More of an advocate than an expert,” repeated Vaze.
“Not an advocate.”
“More of an advocate.”
Public Health and Safety
Vaze asked him about his recent presentations to the public. They were all about how grow operations are a threat to public safety.
So had he publicly advocated that the MMAR was a bad thing?
“No,” Holmquist said. He spoke to Mission, BC about the MMPR. He said, “a majority of questions were complaints about the MMAR.”
So he was encouraging the betterment of the MMPR over the MMAR
“...that facets of MMPR have an advantage,” was how Holmquist wanted to put it.
“So you were advocating,” said Vaze
“Correct,” said Holmquist
Vaze tried again: “More of an advocate than an expert,”
“No, I wouldn't say that.” Holmquist refused to budge.
Vaze returned to the MMAR. MMAR had a lot of regulations to become an applicant. One of the things was: a production site must not be adjacent to daycare and school. And Heath Canada required a description of the security measures undertook by the growers.
“Have you had an opportunity to look at the other affidavits, like Mr. Neil Allard’s?” Vaze asked
“I'd have to look and refresh my memory,” said Holmquist.
Vaze explained that Allard had been growing for himself for years. He took all the correct precautions and had functioning competent security set-up. In order to a MMAR license, one had to fill out all the required forms.
“Based on what we've seen, someone could satisfy Health Canada with security and if they didn't, they would be turned down,” Vaze stated.
“It's possible,” said Holmquist.
It didn't follow that with MMAR there would be automatic security breeches. “The regulation mandates there must be security.”
“It doesn't mandate it, it just asks.” Holmquist was right. He added that the MMPR had specific security regulations.
But Vaze maintained that spot audits could solve the problem of growers saying they are following their security guidelines, but not actually following them. Vaze continued through Allard's affidavit that gave a comprehensive security description. But Allard's entrepreneurial home set-up wasn't swaying Holmquist in any direction.
“You talk about health and safety concerns under the MMAR,” Vaze said
“I see them as issues, yes” replied Holmquist.
Vaze pointed to what Mr. Allard said in regards to inquires to Health Canada on safety issues. Health Canada basically told him to go research the stuff on the Internet. So he did. Allard put a lot of time, money and investment into his garden. In 2012 he had a third production site constructed by professionals. He spent thousands of dollars to have the basement insulated. All the work was done by certified electricians and contractors. Even BC Hydro was contacted and they gave the thumbs up.
“It sounds Mr. Allard has taken extensive measures for safety of his site, his own safety, public safety,” said Vaze.
“He's made extensive steps,” said Holmquist. “I would hope someone would.”
“Would you suggest most people do what Allard does?”
Vaze laid into him again on random samplings of the population as a whole. If Holmquist had done that, “you probably would have gotten many stories like Allard.”
“I don't know,” Holmquist responded
“You don't know because you haven't done it.”
“I don't know. Mr. Allard could be the only one.”
Fires and Electrical Work
Vaze asked: “You'd agree with me as a matter of common sense, that most people don't want fire.”
“Correct,” said Holmquist.
“Anybody doing any activity worried about injuries from fire, would take precaution.”
“I would hope so.”
“You would also agree that any activity with electricity, if not done negligently, could cause fire to occur.”
Vaze mentioned “leaving the stove on” as problematic.
With incentives not to get burnt, Vaze said that it's reasonable to assume both legal and illegal growers would do things that didn't put them at risk for fire. Holmquist answered that a lot people don't have money to do professional jobs. They think they can do it themselves.
But Vaze reminded him of his lack of statistics. And people without money? Illegal growers have a lot of money, according to police reports.
Could be onerous for some people, replied Holmquist.
But Vaze reminded him that organized crime likes to invest. And he's got no stats on people no little to no money.
“Correct,” said Holmquist.
“It's reasonable for both legal and illegal not to burn themselves.”
Vaze postulated that illegal growers actually do things by the book, so they don't screw up and get caught.
“Some do, yes,” Holmquist replied.
“You'd agree in the case of legal growers, incentives would be even higher.”
“I would hope so.”
Holmquist had no basis to say that under the MMAR regime there was any risk of faulty wiring or risk of fire. “I can't speak to all grows,” Holmquist admitted.
“Exactly, You can't say. You imply it in the report, but you can't say.”
“I've seen some risks at some sites.”
Just a few. No random analysis, no comparable analysis.
Vaze brought up the affidavit of Robert Boileau, a qualified and certified electrician. All legal cannabis gardens in British Columbia have been subject to the Safety Standards Act.
“I'm not aware,” Holmquist said.
Vaze ensured him that there were various measures in place so when certified work was done it was under compliance. Many municipalities have bylaws in place to make sure people are up to code.
“Some people want to keep their grow quiet,” said Holmquist.
But Vaze snapped back that Holmquist didn't really know that. He's just talked with some people. What he said had no foundation at all. There was no evidence provided that “some people” want to get their “grows” quiet.
“Correct,” Holmquist was finished, but the day was far from over.
When the proceedings resumed, Bibhans Vaze talked about investigations under the MMAR. How the RCMP’s Shane Holmquist referred to problems associated with investigating illegal gardens existing in the MMAR because of the regulations themselves. Apparently the MMAR made it hard to do proper investigations on who was over producing and selling in black market.
It remained a challenge to police investigations; MMAR issues have represented obstacles. The main problem, according to Holmquist, when police respond to cannabis and ask to see the Health Canada permit. The permit is how much to possess, but it's impossible to know if any was sold before. Police were unable to detect if people are misusing the regulations.
“This isn't a problem with the MMAR?” asked Vaze.
“I wouldn't say that,” Holmquist responded
“When you show up, you say you have no way of knowing if they were overgrowing in the past? In a domestic violence complaint, you can't verify if it's been going on for over 20 years?”
Vaze ripped apart Holmquist's logic. When police show up at a medical cannabis garden, they can't immediately determine the past. It's like any criminal investigation. Vaze did admit that there would be some difficulty in investigating illegal sites in respect to the MMAR. But could Mr. Holmquist pinpoint the differences between MMAR and illegal investigations?
Holmquist said they'd call Health Canada to confirm. If they were producing more, then Holmquist would have to know how much they are allowed to produce. The police would take the excess plants, but leave the plants that are still under the license.
Holmquist had talked about the MMAR being an impediment to investigation. But in this case, Vaze wanted to know. What was the impediment?
“Determining what is legal and what is illegal in the MMAR,” Holmquist said.
“You can go in, you can determine if someone is overgrowing,” Vaze answered.
“It's more onerous to investigate to MMAR.”
“You don't want to put in the work.”
“I didn't say that at all,” Holmquist snapped.
But Vaze persisted. There was no impediment. “You just had to put more work into the investigation.” He was becoming relentless.
Holmquist said getting an MMAR warrant was harder than getting warrants for illegal grows.
Vaze agreed. But investigating illegal grows could take a long time. Even in medical gardens, hydro inspectors have given tips.
“A theft report,” Holmquist agreed.
“Information you can use to facilitate an investigation,” said Vaze. He continued that if Holmquist saw excessive amount of electricity, it may be a sign they are overgrowing.
“No, they might be growing monster plants,” said Holmquist. Hydro wasn't a sign, evidently.
“Some inferences can drawn from electricity,” said Vaze, it's used often before a judge in the case of getting a warrant.
“That's right,” said Holmquist.
“As a whole, there is no impediment for investigation under the MMAR then there is in the illegal market.”
“So we can scrap out the impediments of investigation in the expert report?”
“More work needs to be put into it,” Holmquist reminded Vaze.
“More work could be put into other investigations. As a whole, there are no general greater impediments in the MMAR.”
“Correct,” said Holmquist.
And a little later…
“You are aware that the Minister can revoke someone's license for non-compliance with regulations?”
Holmquist's report said cannabis cultivation was a big investment for organized crime. But it must be unknown because there was insufficient data with organized crime. One group may have access to cannabis, and trade it with another group. But there were no samples, no data, no evidence, correct?
“Correct,” said Holmquist.
“You're aware of single instances where people grow 1000s of plants and tend to them themselves?
You are aware of people individually transferring and driving across the country?
“So it doesn't follow that to do all this you don't need organized crime. It could be one person.”
So to say organized crime was involved in cannabis cultivation, especially if one was abusing the MMAR license, was not accurate. It could be just one person.
“Possible but unlikely,” said Holmquist.
Vaze and Holmquist then entered a long debate about organized crime that went until lunch. First there was an employee and employer problem with an MMAR production site. It was a trim job and the employee felt he was getting undercut. So he put a gun to the head of the employer and demanded money.
“Yes, this is organized crime,” said Holmquist. It involved multiple people with an intention to be paid
“Let's be straight, we think of gangs,” said Vaze.
But Holmquist had him: “Organized crime is defined in the Criminal Code.” It's not just gangsters and mobsters.
So Vaze took him on that definition. It could be a family of three – like the definition says it could – but we colloquially think of gangs.
“No,” said Holmquit. It is three or more people as defined in the Criminal Code.
“So there's always organized crime in any illicit trade.”
“Not in your one-person example you just gave.”
“Your allusion in the report is that there is gang activity in the MMAR…”
“I didn't say gang.”
“I'm suggesting that was your intention,” said Vaze.
“That was not the case,” answered Holmquist.
There was an example of a property that was illegally amalgamated and had eight MMAR licenses assigned to it. Holmquist had visited the site and in his report noted the Hells Angel medallion on the kitchen table. A copy of Holmquist's photograph of the medallion – not even to scale – was his only proof of organized crime. Vaze concluded, “You summarized what your investigation is all about. You provided details subjectively based on what you think is relevant.”
“I didn't have access to all the information.”
“But you could have?”
“What evidence is there for organized crime?”
Holmquist cited the illegally subdivided property, overproduction according to licenses, monster plants, packaged cannabis for sale.
Vaze stopped him: “You selectively omitted things. You didn't obtain a criminal conviction.”
“I have no knowledge what happened to this case.”
“You could have gotten some documents and reproduced them for the expert report?”
“You have access to this, and the public does not?”
“So when I look at the details you provided, I can't say for sure if the details you provided are correct or not. You say eight MMAR licenses, you list the number of plants but because I don't have any documents I can't collaborate that there only seven MMAR licenses. So this is all inaccurate, possible?”
“No, the documents do exist and I can produce them,” said Holmquist.
“You could have. But you didn't. So in the absence, it's impossible for me to determine if this is accurate or fudged. Correct?”
Vaze suggested familiarity with the case.
“I don't know the final outcome.”
“All of these charges could have been non-prosecuted,” said Vaze.
“I'm saying I don't know.”
“I'm saying you have no evidence. This example, like so many others, is about accuracy. We can't determine the accuracy based on your details.” Vaze also emphasized the importance of corroboration.
“It's a police investigation. Like everything in this report,” was all Holmquist could say.
Vaze told him mistakes happen in police reports. There are mistakes in official documents. A comprehensive review is needed to reveal when or where mistakes happen. He accused Holmquist of believing that: if it's in the police reports I source, it must be true.
“Anybody can make mistakes,” Holmquist's voice was getting timid.
“We don't know if any of this is accurate,” said Vaze.
“You don't but I do when I prepare the report,” said Holmquist.
Vaze asked for a lunch break, but before granting it, Justice Phelan asked the Crown's lawyers for Holmquist's expert certificate.
Hell's Angels Medallion & Excess Plants
By the afternoon there were 25 people in the gallery. Attorney Bibhans Vaze and the RCMP’s Shane Holmquist started with the Hells Angels medallion that was apparently at the crime site provided in the expert report. That was the only evidence of organized crime but it took a long time for Vaze to beat it out of Holmquist. Verbally speaking, of course. Holmquist claimed they looked at a lot of evidence. But Vaze persisted, if one thought of the colloquial definition of gang activity, that medallion was the only evidence of organized crime.
“Yes,” Holmquist finally admitted.
“That is not evidence at all for organized crime,” Vaze said.
But Holmquist dodged the question.
Vaze stayed on task: “That by itself does not suggest what is colloquially defined as organized crime.”
“That is correct.”
Amazing enough, Corporal Holmquist had no idea how the investigation ended.
“I don't believe you don't know what the outcome of that investigation is,” said Vaze, “I find that unavailable.”
Holmquist answered that he honestly didn't know.
“When did you last review these documents?”
“I don't remember off the top of my head”
“You said they were going an excess of 55 plants.”
“I didn't count them, but they were counted.”
“This was MMAR grow operation.”
So if it was an MMAR grow, only the excess would have been seized?
“Initially yes. But the extra work involves taking the rest,” Holmquist went on but Vaze interrupted.
“Oh, so you can go further, you just need another warrant?”
“I don't know if what I said...”
“In your evidence, all you would have done is taken the excess from the license.”
“That's how the warrant is written. While on scene if there are other indicators of violations, we will seek an additional warrant for nothing not covered in the first warrant.”
“In this case,” asked Vaze, “did you do anything behind seizing the 55 plants?”
Holmquist admitted he didn't remain part of the investigation until the end. He had no idea how it turned out.
“Before the other warrant was obtained,” asked Vaze, “much more went on beyond the initial seizure. That was all done before warrant?”
“I don't understand,” said Holmquist
“Recall saying that you can seize the excess plants.”
“It's whatever in that warrant. Most warrants have been to seize the plants.”
“And in this case... more was done.”
“That is correct.”
Vaze recited the number of MMAR licenses in Canada, for both production for personal uses and the designated growers. “So with respect to your data collection and analysis,” Vaze said that whatever Holmquist had come up with, it was against a number of 15,000 in BC and approximately 28,000 in Canada.
Vaze clarified electrical safety again. Enforced by provincial and municipal authorities.
“Yes,” Holmquist repeated.
Vaze went over the training an individual must undergo before he or she is certified by the province. He mentioned Mr. Allard again and the evidence that his garden was properly secured.
“What I just described,” said Vaze, “it's reasonable that standards by municipalities and provinces and certified by electricians would insure all safety standards at grow operations would be safe.”
“Electrical maybe,” Holmquist had other issues.
After sometime Vaze asked: “So if all guidelines were met?”
“It's possible,” said Holmquist. It was possible for an MMAR garden to be safe.
Did Corporal Holmquist Cry?
Vaze criticized Holmquist's photos in the report. They didn't juxtaposition proper MMAR sites from the bad one he managed to provide as evidence.
“As a corporal for the RCMP, you can't do objective research?”
“I get experienced to one side, yes.”
“So you have no experience to the other side?”
“No experience on an MMAR site with no issues.”
“All you had to do was ask,” Vaze said.
“It's possible,” replied Holmquist.
Things started to get tense as Vaze's questioning became more pointed and jarring. Holmquist's expert report was finished.
Holmquist said, “What I was asked to do was not to research and prepare this affidavit, it was to answer these four questions.” (Referring to the four issues he addressed in his expert report.)
But Vaze wasn't letting him off so easy. He reminded him that submitting expert documents to court was a serious matter. But he didn't even bother scanning the entire Health Canada database. He had few if any examples of his claims of fact; it was Holmquist's word against the 30,000 gardens and over 40,000 medical patients.
“If you want to help the court in an objective fashion and you didn't take any of these steps, then you were bound by as a law enforcement officer. You were not an independent researcher.”
It was like watching a child show his failing report card to a stern father. But worse. This was the justice arm of the state and nobody believes the propaganda more than a cop. You could feel it in the courtroom. The heavy tone of Vaze's terse got right to the man's soul. Holmquist almost sounding like he was crying. His “yes” answers become so faint they were barely audible.
The expert report was a sham. Holmquist was not an independent researcher and his report was in no way objective in any sense of the term. Here was a Corporal bureaucrat who followed orders. His job was to file reports that his superiors wanted to see. He maintained that he wasn't trained in research methodologies to put a complete scientific report altogether.
Holmquist's Confirmation Bias
“You've never grown marijuana,” asked Bibhans Vaze.
“You can't say anything as a whole because you're not experienced.”
“I've spoken to experts who have grown.” The RCMP’s Shane Holmquist went into a little detail.
“Anything you say about marijuana wouldn't have any weight against someone who does grow.”
The Crown objected: asking for the weight to be given. This was not a legal question. But Justice Phelan said it's a fair question about experience and how Holmquist's knowledge stacks up.
“People who have grown have had more experiences,” said Holmquist after Vaze rephrased the question.
Vaze took issue with Holmquist's report that said prior to the MMAR all cannabis growing was done illegally. As such, MMAR growers received information from people who grew illegally.
“’As such’ suggests you don't have evidence for that,” Vaze said
Holmquist said he learned that from talking to MMAR growers. But no random sampling, no official statistics. “It's based on information I received from growers.”
But with everything Holmquist had been saying, Vaze reminded him that he hadn't offset his numbers with the 28,000 gardens in Canada. He had no evidence that doctors were abusing their authority in prescribing cannabis, save for one exception where it was alleged. He even wrote, “I believe some doctors saw the opportunity to make money.” Vaze reminded him that he was making “some far reaching statements” about doctors who under Hippocratic oath and heavily regulated.
“You make a statement that they are abusing their authority off one example.”
“You're attacking a profession that is heavily regulated.”
“I'm not attacking doctors.”
“You are suggesting that doctors are exploiting the authorization law.”
“Then you can't say there is exploitation.”
Holmquist wanted to call it exploitation, but without statistics or hard facts he had to resign. Vaze also criticized his use of the word “persuade” alongside exploitation. “Persuade is too strong of a word,” said Vaze, “it is the incorrect word. Nobody is hoodwinking anybody here, it's just a process.” Vaze also emphaizied that if doctors signature stamps were stolen, anything could be forged. This was not specific to MMAR
“They were used,” said Holmquist.
“But if we did some research we might find people who have also forged signatures for percocet and oxycodone.”
“You talk of improper waste removal in the MMAR,” Vaze continued, “you give one example from Richmond.” And of course, no stats, no sampling. “You recall Monster Plants?”
Vaze noticed Holmquist devoted several pages to overproduction and monster plants. But not a single statistic or random sampling analysis.
Vaze then got into health and safety concerns. He went over Holmquist's list of the most important. First was building modifications in confined spaces. Holmquist wrote that MMAR producers modify buildings for intended use and they seal off grow rooms. Confined spaces mean first responders may be at risk.
“But you only have one example.”
“An extreme example,” said Holmquist as if it helped his argument.
But no statistics?
“And you heard Mr. Allard's testimony?”
“I didn't hear it, but I read it.”
“Okay you read it. There were no problems with a confined layout there?”
“I'd have to see pictures of it.”
“You talk of high voltage electrical wires,” said Vaze looking at Holmquist's expert report. There was one photograph, an MMAR production site which hadn't been juxtaposed with something else, perhaps a photograph of a certified and safe garden. Again, Holmquist had no data. But, “you've agreed things can be done by the book,” Vaze said. “You talk of toxic mold and fertilizers…”
“I observed mold growing on ceilings at MMAR sites.” Holmquist said, he even provided photos.
“How many times have you observed mold?”
“I can't tell.”
Vaze asked him about mold in MMAR sites versus BC houses in general. Holmquist admitted to ignorance. He didn't know what an average mold infestation would look like in a typical BC home versus a BC home with a medical cannabis garden.
Holmquist had no examples of high c02 levels in medical cannabis gardens, but he wrote about it anyway.
“In the absence of any evidence,” said Vaze, “you can't back up the statement that high levels of CO2 can cause death.”
“I know it can, it's scientifically proven.”
“But you have no examples or statistics from an MMAR site. Zero.”
“Correct because I don't know, I haven't been to all those sites.”
“You talk about weapons at MMAR site. You could only give one example of weapons being present?”
And of course, no statistics or random data sampling to prove that weapons are a serious problem at MMAR sites.
Vaze was cornering Holmquist into a blackhole of his own logic. At times it was difficult to watch. Not that Holmquist didn't have it coming to him. He made assumptions in his expert report about MMAR growers being former criminals.
“You have no evidence to back that up?” Vaze said
“It's just your belief. Based on your version of logic.”
“I believe it's logical yes.”
Vaze then turned his attention to grow-ops. In 2012, the Mission RCMP stopped someone near a medical grow operation. They had 45 pounds of cannabis on them. A conclusion was drawn that this person was involved in grow-rip. He had past criminal activity and – apparently – the appropriate tools.
“Those tools could be for any break and enter,” Vaze started but didn't press too hard. Instead he turned his attention to, “because there are grow ops around, they are vulnerable because people want to seize them.”
“Right,” Holmquist agreed.
“It's possible, but banks have security.”
“The licenses say they have security?”
“It asks them to list security, it doesn't mandate it.”
“Jewelry stores can be targeted, homes with a large number of valuables.”
Vaze wanted to touch upon homicides related to grow rips. But these were grow-rips in general. There was no reference to the MMAR.
“Grow rips don't distinguish between medical and illegal,” answered Holmquist. “The target is the marijuana, so regardless if its medical or not, the target is the grow-rip.”
“You have no actual evidence suggesting people who want to do grow-rips don't distinguish between medical and illegal.”
“Not in this affidavit.”
“I'm saying you have no evidence,” Vaze was ruthless. He tried to make him see that those who have a legal license to grow, were much more likely to have a cooperative relationship with police.
“I don't know,” said Holmquist
Vaze asked him to assume. It was a reasonable assumption. MMAR growers wouldn't hesitant to call police if they had problems. If one were seeking to undertake a grow-rip, one would target an illegal and not a legal one, because an illegal one would be less likely to call the police.
“I don't know how they would know,” answered Holmquist. But he agreed, if the criminals knew it would increase their risks, then yes, they would target the illegal ones.
Allard has a monitor system and good security. “You'd agree that people seeking to do grow-rip would not seek a place with proper security on site?”
“If it increases their risk, yes.”
Corporal Holmquist had one example of a BHO explosion. One example out of 28,000 gardens in Canada. Vaze asked him how many explosions occurred each year from household barbecues. Holmquist didn't know.
“You can't tell us how many legal operations had a fire? Not even one instance?”
“No, not that I am aware of.”
“You had written numerous letters to Health Canada complaining about the MMAR?” asked Vaze
Holmquist rephrased it as “bringing issues to their attention,” as in abuse of the MMAR.
“You're not in favour of the program?”
“I'm in favour of correcting deficiencies”
“Should the MMPR come into force, you will have an important role?”
“Yes.” But he wanted to make sure the court realized this wasn't about advocacy for a particular program.
Vaze asked if Holmquist had done a comparative analysis between MMAR and MMPR? He hadn't. “You can't say there is anything better in the MMPR versus the MMAR? Nor can you say that the things you advocate could not occur under the MMAR.”
“Right,” answered Holmquist. He did not know because he had not been to any gardens other than the ones he investigated.
Vaze asked, “Have you heard of confirmation bias?” He gave a standard definition.
“Yes,” Holmquist agreed.
“That's exactly what you've done before the court.”
“No, I answered the questions.”
“There was no new independent research.”
“The research was the report,” Holmquist tried.
“You had an agenda, your bias, which was the MMAR should be shut down and then you went and wrote a report to confirm that bias.”
“You have no evidence that anything you cited has happened with the case of David Hebert, Neil Allard, Shawn Davey, Tanya Beemish.”
Finally: “That's right.”
“Those are my questions.”
The Crown's Redirect
The Crown went up to save face, if there was any left. The Crown asked him some basic differences between police inspections and Health Canada inspections. Holmquist reiterated that the only reason to grow monster plants was to traffic the excess cannabis. He said that any grower that doesn't follow the Health Canada formula is overproducing and thus trafficking. Holmquist had his opportunity to rant about MMAR security requirements and why the MMPR fixed those problems.
The Crown asked how Holmquist could be confident that his expert report was accurate. He explained that he reviewed the documents for this investigation and obtained some information from other documents sourced.
The Crown let Holmquist explain that if the MMPR were not enforced his job would not be jeopardized. Of course, what wasn't said was the impossibility for a public servant – especially a cop – to get fired. If the MMPR were completely scrapped , Holmquist would find another position in the RCMP no problem.
Finally the Crown asked, “have you changed your opinion on those four issues you were asked to report on?”
“No,” replied Holmquist.
After 8 hours of ruthless questioning and a complete invalidation of his expert report, Corporal Shane Holmquist still stuck to his guns. Medical cannabis gardens were a threat to public health and safety. Even though Bibhans Vaze had clearly discredited his report, the obedient mindset of the RCMP Corporal was too strong to let a little lack of evidence dampen his worldview.