Pubdate: Thu, 08 May 2003
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Contact:  2003 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
Author: Randy Richmond, Free Press Reporter
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


ILDERTON -- Marijuana home-grow operations are getting an unfair rap, says
an Ilderton grower busted last week by police. 

"I just want people to know there is a safe side. My house is not going to
burn down. The kids are not going to burn in their sleep," said Mike
Mcdowell of Ilderton. 

Mcdowell offered The Free Press a rare invitation to see a home-grow
marijuana operation yesterday. 

He admitted he was growing marijuana and said he has no problem with police
doing their job. 

"They were very courteous and professional," he said. 

But the pot he grew was hardly worth what police said and was only used for
personal use, Mcdowell insisted. 

"People do need it. Now I'm a criminal for growing in my own home." 

In a news release, police said they had seized marijuana's valued at
$112,000. City police estimate each plant brings in about $1,000. 

But Mcdowell said he had only 48 plants in hydroponic growth and 53
cuttings, bringing the street value to between $10,000 and $15,000. 

In any case, he doesn't sell marijuana, Mcdowell said. 

"It wasn't for sale. It was for personal consumption." 

Mcdowell said he'd rather not break the law, but with arthritis in his
knuckles, he smokes for both pain relief and pleasure. 

He and his wife, Tabetha, figure they shared on average about four joints a

With two boys in the house, the couple kept their grow operation under wraps
in the basement, Mcdowell said. 

"Ask my kid about marijuana. He won't know what you're talking about," said
Mcdowell, also owner of the Plant Doctor, a hydroponics store in London. 

"I teach classes on hydroponics. I have elderly ladies go home and grow
vegetables in their basements." 

Police and firefighters have recently stepped up efforts to warn the public
about massive marijuana grow operations, which can use entire houses and tap
illegally into hydro lines. 

Mcdowell agreed the large-scale trafficking operations can be fire hazards. 

"The traffickers are the ones who are going to kill somebody." 

But in his house, he pointed out, breakers, plugs and lights in his basement
were all properly wired and surpassed safety standards. 

He alternated between hydroponics in one room and a soil operation in
another to keep a steady supply of marijuana. 

Each operation used two 1,000-watt, high-intensity sodium light bulbs for 12
hours a day. 

The hydroponics room appeared state of the art, with silver Mylar on the
walls, pull-down shades covered in more Mylar, a carbon air filter, a fan
and a track system for lights that allows them to pass over the plants just
as the sun would. 

"I imitate nature as much as I can. Clean air, a breeze," Mcdowell said. 

The equipment costs about $6,000 and the lighting about $65 in hydro a
month, he said. 

The charges have put him out of growing, Mcdowell said. 

"I'm out of it. Now I'll have to go to the pharmacy and get man-made
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