Grow-Ops Too Many To Raid, Police Say

Grow-Ops Too Many To Raid, Police Say
Posted by CN Staff on December 29, 2004 at 08:26:40 PT
By Timothy Appleby and John Saunders 
Source: Globe and Mail 
Police say hydroponic marijuana is a Canadian growth industry grown out of control. There are so many grow houses in neighbourhoods across the country that officers leading the fight are focusing on large, gang-run operations and resigning themselves to seeing countless others go untouched.It is "certainly true" there are too many to stop, said Superintendent Derek Ogden, head of the RCMP drug branch, which has set its sights on those with the muscle, money and distribution channels of organized crime.
"We're firm on that because we know that there are a large number of operations out there -- obviously thousands across Canada -- and we have to target the limited resources to the highest echelon," he said in an interview.As politicians discuss a bill to soften the law on possession of small amounts of marijuana (criminal sanctions would give way to fines akin to traffic tickets), Canada finds itself a centre of large-scale, high-quality illegal production. That phenomenon, in which Asian gangs and outlaw bikers play major roles, is driven by fat profits, rising marijuana use and far lighter penalties than are faced by growers in the United States, where much of the output ends up.Supt. Ogden would not try to guess how many operations exist across the country."The only thing I could say is I have no doubt that the number is increasing and has been increasing over the last number of years," he said, pointing to what he called "reasonably accurate" statistics on marijuana plants seized by police. The count rose from 50,000 in 1989 to 1.5 million in 2003, he said.At a hearing last month for seven men convicted in a record-breaking bust at a former Molson brewery in Barrie, Ontario Provincial Police drug specialist Rick Barnum estimated that the province has as many as 25,000 grow-ops, a sharp increase over a previous police estimate that the number might approach 15,000.(A year ago, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police issued a much-cited "Green Tide" report guessing that anywhere from 2,980 to 14,900 grow-ops had been active in the province during 2002. Those figures were arrived at by taking the number of operations police found and dismantled -- about 1,490 -- and theorizing that the total was anywhere between twice and 10 times that number.)In a recent interview, Detective Staff-Sergeant Barnum said his figure is a judgment based on talks with municipal police forces, power companies, real estate agents, building-code officials, bylaw-enforcement officers and others in a position to see signs of houses being turned into climate-controlled indoor marijuana plantations. He said he believes there are as many as 15,000 grow-ops in the Greater Toronto Area alone. "I mean, we haven't gone through with our instruments, our FLIRs [infrared heat sensors] and stuff, and actually counted each house, but there's certainly a good indication that there's lots of grow houses out there, an overwhelming number," he said."But the point is, if it's 15,000 or even if it's 2,000, it's still uncontrollable from a policing perspective. That's a phenomenal amount of work and a phenomenal number [of cases]."No matter how hard police work to root out individual grow houses, he said, "it's impossible to get rid of them, there's that many."In Ottawa, Supt. Ogden said grow houses showed up in British Columbia in the 1980s and have since spread in a major way to Alberta, Ontario, Quebec (although more than half of Quebec grow busts are still outdoors) and the Atlantic provinces.As part of a five-year, $57-million anti-drug effort launched in 2003, the RCMP have set up six-member specialist teams to work alongside local drug squads to fight grow-ops in the Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal areas. This year, similar teams will arrive in Ontario and the Atlantic region, Supt. Ogden said.Part of the job is to persuade people that whatever their views on marijuana, grow houses are a problem, especially if one shows up next door, Supt. Ogden said."We run a number of operations each year that are international in scope. They have all aspects that any other drug operation would have. . . . We seize weapons. We see violence. All the elements are there."Unknown numbers of children live in grow houses and are exposed to risks of fire, electrocution and poisoning amid jury-rigged wiring, fertilizers and pesticides, he said. "It also puts them at risk of violence. We've seen, especially in Western Canada, a number of drug ripoffs. People will go into a house and steal a crop . . ."Police also see cases "where these criminals don't have their information straight," he said. "They go into the wrong house. They tie up innocent people. They terrorize people in these homes and those people are being terrorized as a direct result of grow operations operating in the community."If that is not enough, there is the question of real estate values, with damage to individual houses used by growers running to $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 and more, he said."The wiring is not designed to draw that much electricity," Supt. Ogden said. "There's fungus growing inside the house. There are definite fire hazards. . . . When you go in and buy a home, you assume that it hasn't been used for a grow operation, but, boy, if it has, you may have a lot of legal difficulties . . ."It's the same if you have homes that you're renting [to others]. I mean, if you rent [out] a home in good faith but then find out that an organization has duped you and used your home [as a grow operation], that destroys a lot of value in a home in a hurry."Toronto real estate agent Victor Kerman said buyers should be aware that a grow house may be back on the market after a few crops.Buyer Beware Clues for spotting houses formerly used as marijuana grow-ops, from Victor Kerman of Royal LePage Signature Realty:Indications that walls were put up and subsequently removed. (A wall may have been erected a few feet back from the front window with a table and lamp set in the front portion to create the illusion of a living room while offering privacy for the operator.) Ceiling repairs and repainting, repairs to the roof, patched subfloors and new carpeting to hide areas where vent holes were cut.Excessive moisture in the house, including saturated insulation in the attic and staining on walls and floors from condensation. Showers and bathtubs altered for plant watering purposes. Rust on the furnace and flues or chimneys. Smell of chemical or fertilizer. Alterations to electrical, natural gas and/or water lines. Source: Globe and Mail (Canada) Author: Timothy Appleby and John Saunders Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - Page A13 Copyright: 2004 The Globe and Mail CompanyContact: letters globeandmail.caWebsite: -- Canada Archives
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Comment #9 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on December 30, 2004 at 02:28:47 PT
  It's a good thing alcohol prohibition is over, or there would be thousands of home breweries and backyard stills across Canada, and the police would never shut them all down. However, nowadays all Canadian alcohol is produced in compliance with the law. These laws are more humane to the producers and the consumers, and people who don't drink are no longer caught in the crossfire.  Wouldn't it be nice if the same thing could be done with marijuana?
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Comment #8 posted by mayan on December 29, 2004 at 17:24:31 PT
The cops waste all of their time and resources going after the herb while murderers,rapists,child molesters & thieves have their way. The prohibitionists have lost this war as they can't beat the law of supply & demand. They need to concede as they are doing more harm than cannabis ever could!
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on December 29, 2004 at 14:14:27 PT
I was going to post it but it's ClearChannel copyright and that worried me. Thank you for the link though.
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Comment #6 posted by Sukoi on December 29, 2004 at 13:48:01 PT
cloud7 (comment #3)
When I first read this article, I thought the exact same thing, “overgrow the government”. I wish that someone with the money and capability would fly back and forth across America and drop seeds everywhere creating an overwhelming burden for law enforcement to enforce their archaic laws. Perhaps then they might re-think these failed policies.On another note, here is another article about the proposal in Bush’s back yard (my state) that’s a bit more informative than the other ones that I’ve seen:Proposal Would End Jail for Some Marijuana Possession Cases
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Comment #5 posted by lombar on December 29, 2004 at 13:15:46 PT
Buggaboos, phantoms, and no end in sight
They have pulled every bugaboo they can think of. Is it so hard to name the true lynchpin that keeps this going on? Sounds like the police should all join leap and regain their honor! Or they can continue to try and bail the titanic with a dixie cup. Their inability to enforce these laws undermines their ability to enforce anything, diparages their public image, and breeds contempt for their thankless job. It really encourages further lawlessness when they keep insisting on prohibition and continue to fail. The smart cops know they can never win and realize that their efforts are completely wasted. If people will risk death in places like Saudi Arabia to sell illicit substances, how is a fine or jail going to stop it or slow it here???When I read pieces like this, I think they are trying to create an environment where the people will support a crackdown on cannabis...too bad %60 think it should be legal eh?It is also really hard to justify increased police budgets while schools and hospitals are getting closed and over a million children live well below the poverty line. (1 in 6 Canadian children - Lets hose another $60 million down the drain that could be better spent elsewhere.
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Comment #4 posted by observer on December 29, 2004 at 12:36:55 PT
most grow "ops" are mom and pop
Most of the "grow-ops" and (this one is my new favorite) "grow labs" (conflates math lab and grow op) are small scale, mom & pop with a few plants in the basement. If it were the equivalent number of tomatoes they were growing, no one would give it a second thought. I'm not talking about rental houses that are gutted and filled stem to stern with plants and mould. That of course is destructive and uncool.Yet many in the media would have you think of the big gutted rental houses for every plant mom & pop have on the porch. They just aren't the same.Government can't get them all without allowing police searches of everyone's homes all the time. (Not that police object to being given that power at all.) 
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Comment #3 posted by cloud7 on December 29, 2004 at 11:22:10 PT
Looks like "Overgrow the Government" is no longer just a funny slogan.
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Comment #2 posted by ekim on December 29, 2004 at 09:52:37 PT
o Canada meet your future--and weep
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Comment #1 posted by jared3602 on December 29, 2004 at 09:41:45 PT:
"Police also see cases "where these criminals don't have their information straight," he said. "They go into the wrong house. They tie up innocent people. They terrorize people in these homes and those people are being terrorized as a direct result of grow operations operating in the community.""This is unlike the police where they barge into the wrong house and shoot the innocent people inside.
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