Soldier who gave out cannabis cupcakes during live-fire training endangered 150 troops

soldier who gave out cannabis cupcakes during live-fire training endangered 150 troops

Bombardier Chelsea Cogswell arrives for a court martial at CFB Gagetown in Oromocto, N.B., on August 12, 2021.

A Canadian Forces bombardier who handed out cannabis-laced cupcakes to fellow soldiers from a military canteen during a live-fire drill endangered her comrades and betrayed their trust, a panel of appeal judges said.

Chelsea Cogswell’s covert distribution of spiked cupcakes that made soldiers high while training with artillery — “an instrument of death and destruction” — was a danger to all 150 troops at the large-scale training exercise in 2018, an appeal court said in its reasons for judgment published Friday.

One stoned soldier was driving soldiers to an airstrip when he felt “mind-altering symptoms” and nearly crashed into another vehicle.

Another soldier felt “spaced out” and walked around staring at trees instead of guarding access to a field where artillery rounds would be exploding. A colleague fell asleep in the back of a truck, court heard.

At the gunline, a soldier was smoking while trying to play a ukulele, and another was improperly loading artillery shells. Others variously said they had unquenchable thirst, felt paranoid, nauseous, belligerent, or sluggish. Other soldiers arrived with their artillery gun giggling away.

They soon realized something was wrong and they found they had each eaten a free cupcake handed out by Cogswell from the mobile field canteen.

The bizarre incident is now the legacy of “Exercise Common Gunner,” a complex training operation at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick stretching more than two weeks in July 2018.

Three detachments from the Royal Canadian Artillery School were scheduled for a live fire exercise on July 21.

Cogswell and another soldier were assigned to run a canteen offering supplies to soldiers in the field. It moved about selling drinks, food and snacks.

Cogswell baked chocolate flavoured cupcakes with chocolate frosting topped with a jellybean at home and brought them to base in a Tupperware container. She offered them for free to soldiers at the canteen, court heard.

Nine soldiers ate some or all of a cupcake; eight reported negative symptoms.

Five soldiers later submitted urine samples and all tested positive for cannabis. One was a recovering drug addict, court heard.

One cupcake wrapper was retained and turned over to Military Police. It tested positive for THC, the intoxicating ingredient in cannabis.

Court heard that during police interviews, Cogswell “indicated animosity toward her unit,” but she denied purposely drugging her comrades.

Cogswell, who joined the military in 2011 and had been promoted to bombardier, was convicted last year of behaving in a disgraceful manner, contrary to the National Defence Act, and eight counts of administering a noxious thing with the intent to aggrieve or annoy, contrary to the Criminal Code.

She was busted in rank to gunner, dismissed from the forces, and imprisoned for 30 days.

Cogswell then complained the military judge hearing her case made errors in assessing evidence and that the police investigation was flawed, leading to a breach of her Charter rights.

The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada rejected her appeals in May and said written reasons would follow. The court has now released its reasons.

“The training exercise was disrupted and the danger of conducting a live fire artillery exercise while intoxicated, was high,” Justice John Edward Scanlan wrote on behalf of the panel of three judges.

“Both detachments were headed to a live fire exercise, using extremely dangerous equipment. Artillery is designed as an instrument of death and destruction.

“They were in no condition to be firing high-powered artillery. What the Appellant did presented a danger to all troops involved in this large-scale training exercise.”

“Part of the military ethos is built on trust in fellow soldiers…. What was done here, in the context of a live fire exercise, endangered all involved and undermined that trust in the extreme.”

The appeal court was satisfied the judge’s decision was sound.

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