Pubdate: Mon, 17 Mar 2003
Source: Surrey Now (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc., A Canwest Company
Author: Tom Zytaruk


Canada's Solicitor-General Wayne Easter flew into North Surrey by 
helicopter Wednesday for a first-hand look at the city's burgeoning 
marijuana grow-op problem.

Recently police revealed Surrey has as many as 4,500 pot growing operations.

After landing in Green Timbers he was shuttled to the District 1 police 
station in Whalley, where he met with the drug squad and saw a video about 
local grow operations. After, he was taken on a tour of drug houses in Whalley.

Surrey North MP Chuck Cadman, justice critic for the Canadian Alliance, 
wasn't invited.

"The excuse I was given was that it was not a public event," said Cadman, 
who has been railing against Surrey's grow ops on Parliament Hill for more 
than a year now. "It's become a public safety issue. Politics shouldn't 
enter into this," he said.

After watching a video overview of Surrey's marijuana grow-op problem shot 
last week, profiling two operations in Fraser Heights, Easter told 
reporters he understands the severity of Surrey's problem.

"The RCMP in this area certainly have their work cut out for them," Easter 
said. "There should be a very heavy price paid for being involved in this 
kind of serious crime. I want to compare notes in terms of what kind of 
penalties are the courts in fact issuing on this issue, are the penalties 
being enforced as outlined in the law."

This week the federal government released $8.4 million to help fund 
crime-fighting agencies in B.C.

The police seemed heartened by Easter's visit.

"I feel we have the support of him," said Supt. Al McIntyre. "I sense he 
was very concerned."

B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman told the legislative assembly in 
Victoria this week that 82 per cent of people convicted of growing pot in 
B.C. receive neither a punitive fine nor jail sentence. In Washington 
State, the minimum sentence on a first offence is three months in jail.

"In Whatcom County, south of the Fraser Valley, they will deal with maybe a 
handful of grow-ops this year," Coleman said. "In British Columbia we will 
deal with thousands of grow ops in the Fraser Valley.

"They are the base of organized crime in British Columbia."
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