Based on your original question and subsequent clarification I have
come up with some information with the intent of helping you inform
yourself prior to meeting with legal counsel.
First, let's consider the closure of Overgrow.com (along with multiple
other sites operated by Heaven's Stairway) in relation to the
operation of your HempCultivation.com.
The dismantling of Heaven's Stairway was conducted by the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) within the province of Quebec. The
actual operation was conducted by the newly formed Marijuana Grow
Operations Enforcement Team. Since you run your company and website
from a different jurisdiction you would not fall under the scrutiny of
this group even if you were engaged in activity considered illegal.
Instead, it would be worthwhile to try and find out if the equivalent
task force or agency responsible in your jurisdiction has conducted a
similar operation. This is not to say that you would be accountable if
there were, as there are significant differences between Heaven's
Stairway and your company from what you have told me. More on this
From the newswire reference provided:
"The cybercompany Heaven's Stairway used the Internet sites
hempqc.com, cannabisworld.com, overgrow.com, eurohemp.com,
cannabisseeds.com, and cannabisbay.com. These sites were used to order
cannabis seeds online and obtain information on cannabis cultivation.
These Internet sites also suggested ways to outsmart the police."
I believe that the combination of providing cookbook-style
instructions along with the key ingredients for the cultivation of
marijuana resulted the action being illegal. The reason for this is
that the company didn't fall into either of these categories:
a) The company provided only information and did not facilitate that
the information be used to conduct illegal activity.
b) The company only provided access to certain products without
reference to what can be done with those products. Now this one is
probably a weaker argument since there are a limited number of things
you can do with cannibus seeds (as far as I know).
Additionally, the fact that instructions were provided on how to
outsmart authorities gave a clear indication of their specific intent
(and therefore the conspiracy charges).
Heaven's Stairway, in addition to it's websites, had a structured
operation for obtaining, marketing, and selling cannabis seeds. The
fact that they used regular mail and were also involved in doing the
same outside of their jurisdiction made them high-profile targets.
In my opinion, I don't believe their OverGrow.com would have been as
highly visible to authorities if it weren't attached to a physical
operation of this scale. That is not to pass judgement on whether or
not it was legel according to the governing legislation, but if this
site operated in isolation the chance of "getting busted" would have
been significantly reduced.
RISK OF ASSOCIATION WITH CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES
The most concerning point from your perspective is that cannabis seeds
are considered a controlled substance in this case. If that is also
true in your jurisdiction, it is cause for concern. The reason being
is due to your provision of sources of this substance (via your
advertising). As mentioned in the newswire, the database of clients
for this company are now accessible to authorities and could face
prosecution. However, authorities typically go after physical
operations, as their mandate is to control the flow of controlled
substances. By their logic, doing so would eliminate\reduce the value
of sites such as yours.
I do know for a fact that Canada has classified cannabis seeds in a
secondary group, and as a result crimes related to this particular
controlled substance have less severe punishments. The same cannot be
said for the USA, where cannabis seeds are categorized along with
cocaine and heroin.
In your case, you don't have clients, but you do have a list of
members (unless you destroyed this information), many of whom use your
advertising as a means of obtaining controlled substances. Techniques
are available to cross-reference membership lists with IP addresses
and online advertising databases. However, I haven't seen any busts
operate in this fashion - there is a tendency to go after the source
rather than the spinoff businesses.
SUGGESTIONS FOR LIMITING LIABILITY
1. Eliminate all advertising for companies who sell controlled
substances. Anything that is classified as "drug paraphenalia" should
be treated the same way as per MAPA Section 3a - I believe a GrowLight
would fall into this classification however I would confirm that with
legal counsel. Seed suppliers certainly should not exist on the site.
A link to the Act is here:
2. Never allow information on ways to bypass the authorities to enter
your site. Add this to your AUP if it is not already there.
3. Create a new section on the site that covers the potential
consequences of using information on the site for illegal purposes in
the jurisdictions where the majority of your users reside.
4. Limit your operations in this area to information - do not have any
physical trace of equipment or illegal substances linked to you or
I hope the information above will give you some areas of discussion
with your lawyer. If you are unclear on anything above, please post a
clarification and I will respond promptly.