June 22nd, 2024

Grange Hotel up in smoke due to illegal grow-up

By Lethbridge Herald on January 14, 2022.

Delon Shurtz
Lethbridge Herald

A Vulcan man whose motel burned to the ground because he was growing cannabis in one of the rooms, has been fined under the Cannabis Act.

Beizhen Sun, 51, was fined $1,000 Thursday in Lethbridge provincial court on one charge of possessing, producing, selling, distributing or importing anything with the intention that it will be used to produce, sell or distribute illicit cannabis.

Federal Crown Prosecutor Mark Klassen told court he was prepared to deal with the offence by way of a fine instead of jail, because Sun has already suffered “substantial ramifications” from his actions, including the destruction of the Grange Hotel in Carmangay on March 28 of last year.

“Financially there have already been severe consequences,” Klassen said.

The maximum penalty allowed under the act on summary procedure is a $5,000 fine, six months in jail, or both.

Klassen said there were only three occupants in the hotel at the time of the fire; Sun, his common law spouse Ru Xia Gao and her adult son, and although the 112-year-old hotel was destroyed, all three safely escaped.

Investigators determined a cannabis grow operation was being run in one of the rooms, and was the cause of the fire.

“Police counted approximately 26 cannabis stalks in that room, and they seized 13 of them,” Klassen said.

Sun confessed to police and told them the cannabis plants were his, and that he had harvested the plants in October of 2020 and had sold some of the cannabis previously.

Calgary lawyer Jim Lutz agreed with the fine recommended by the Crown, and pointed out his client did not have a previous criminal record and had, along with his family, lost everything in the fire and suffered financial consequences for the offences. Ru Xia Gao was also charged under the Cannabis Act, but the charge against her was withdrawn Thursday.

As many as eight fire departments responded to the early morning fire, and while they couldn’t save the historic hotel, they saved nearby buildings, including a restaurant and library. According to some residents, the hotel hadn’t been used for many years, but the restaurant and bar were still operating.

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