Ridge man cleared of trafficking charges, guilty of possession

Shane Rushton had Health Canada permit to use medical marijuana.

A Maple Ridge man has been acquitted of trafficking charges after a judge ruled he was not selling illegal drugs, found in his bedroom during a police raid.

Instead, Shane Rushton was convicted Friday on three lesser counts of drug possession following a trial in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court.

Rushton was arrested in October 2011 after Ridge Meadows RCMP executed a search warrant at an apartment in Maple Ridge.

Police found drugs in various places throughout the apartment, including a safe or lock box in Rushton’s bedroom.

After being arrested, Rushton gave police a key to the lock box, as well as the combination to the safe.

Police seized a total of 104.5 grams of marijuana (64 grams in one safe and 40.5 grams in the other), 0.4 grams of methamphetamine and 22 codeine pills.

Police also found numerous small plastic “baggies” in the apartment.

An expert witness called by Crown believed that while some of the marijuana was for personal use, the balance of it and the other drugs were for the purpose of trafficking, given the presence of the grinder, scales, packaging materials and score sheets.

The judge said it should be noted that at least one of the so-called “score sheets” was exactly that – for a game, not for drug sales.

Rushton, 40, testified in his defence and denied selling drugs, but admitted that he regularly shared his drugs with friends and guests.

At the time of the raid, Rushton had a Health Canada permit to use medical marijuana to treat sciatic problems and lower back pain.

He moved into the apartment with a roommate in August 2011, but shortly after the roommate became ill with a staphylococcus infection, which nearly killed him.

The roommate remained hospitalized for seven to eight months, but wanted Rushton to hold the room for him until he got well.

With his roommate’s consent, Rushton hit upon the idea of subsidizing the rent by allowing short-term rentals, and preparing meals for his guests for a fee.

He testified that he charged $10 a person per night for staying overnight, plus $5 or $10 per meal if they ate.

He told the court that what the expert described as “score sheets” were, in fact, his records of what people owed him for rent and food.

Rushton testified that the methamphetamine was his and that he used it from time to time by snorting it, although he was trying to stay clean. The codeine pills had been loaned to him by a friend as he had run out.

Rushton told the judge he kept the pills as a last resort for pain relief, and would take up to 10 at a time.

In a written judgement, provincial court judge Deirdre Pothecary believed Rushton.

“I am not satisfied that the Crown has proven that the drugs were possessed for the purpose of trafficking based on the surrounding circumstances, as a result of not rejecting Rushton’s evidence,” said Pothecary.

“It was his evidence that, at the time, when he was found in possession of the drugs, his only intention was to possess them for personal use.”

Rushton received a suspended sentence and a nine-month probation order, following the convictions.

• Read the full judgement online.