Shuswap grow-op nets Surrey man one-year prison sentence

Jailed for marijuana grow-op

A man whose 1,400-plant marijuana grow-op was busted by Mounties in 2018 has been ordered to spend one year in prison.

Trong Nguyen, 40, was sentenced Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops after pleading guilty to one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Court heard police began looking into his Malakwa property — a half-acre with a house and an outbuilding — in 2017.

When Mounties searched the property on Oct. 4, 2018, they found 976 plants inside the house and another 435 in the outbuilding — more than 1,400 in all. Court heard the entire outbuilding had been converted for the grow, and all but the kitchen and one bedroom in the house.

Federal Crown prosecutor Anthony Varesi said a crop from the operation would have been worth about $88,000.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Dev Dley described Nguyen’s grow-op as a “sophisticated” endeavour.

“It was an enterprise that had been ongoing for some time and was expected to continue,” he said, describing it as a “mid-level commercial” operation.

“It required planning and deliberation.”

Cannabis was decriminalized in Canada on Oct. 17, 2018 — 13 days after the bust at Nguyen’s Malakwa property. The new laws made possession and consumption legal under certain circumstances, but many regulations remain in place limiting amounts and sources.

Nguyen's grow-op would still be illegal under today's laws, which outlaw the cultivation of "illicit" cannabis and forbid growing more than four plants for personal use.

Court heard Nguyen previously held a Health Canada licence allowing him to be in possession of 179 plants, and he was aware of marijuana licensing rules. He said he gave up on the licensing process in 2013 because it was too complicated.

Dley found Nguyen’s level of awareness of marijuana regulations to be an aggravating factor.

Nguyen had no prior criminal record. Originally from Vietnam, he lives and works in Surrey as a nail technician.

Nguyen was taken into custody by deputy sheriffs after Dley read his decision.

In addition to the jail time, he will also be bound by a 10-year firearms prohibition and required to submit a sample of his DNA to a national criminal database.

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