Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jun 2003
Source: Rocky View Times (CN AB)
Copyright: 2003 Rocky View Times.
Author: Michelle Mark / Sun Media


There's little doubt Chestermere was a growing community -- now it has the 
dubious distinction of being Canada's pot growing capital.

The town's leafy label was solidified last week with the 18th grow bust of 
the year, a $400,000 haul of marijuana that pushed this year's seized pot 
well over the $15-million mark.

That's more than $4,000 worth of weed and paraphernalia for every man, 
woman and child living in the lakeside community of 3,742. Neighbouring 
Calgary has seen just $12.25 million in pot busts since January, or about 
$13 per resident.

The latest Chestermere bust took place Thursday afternoon in a home on Cove 
Road. "Inside the residence, in the basement, police located a multi-stage 
growing operation and 353 marijuana plants," said Const. Jeff McBeth.

Despite Chestermere's massive per-capita problem with pot growing, the 
mayor refuses to accept his town is Canada's capital of cannabis.

"To even suggest that is ludicrous," said Dave Mikkelsen.

But figures show Chestermere dwarfs even marijuana hotbeds like Vancouver, 
where grow operations totalled $42 a person in 2000.

A May 2002 Fraser University study on pot growing in Canada showed B.C. 
with the worst record in the country, with 0.98 marijuana cultivation 
incidents per 1,000 people. Newfoundland was next at 0.6 per 1,000.

With 18 busts so far this year, Chestermere is currently pushing five 
cultivation incidents per 1,000 residents.

"I don't know why they picked Chestermere," McBeth said.

"Chestermere is significantly smaller than Calgary, so they may think it's 
easier to hide there."

In 2000, Calgary police took out 58 growing operations, seizing $4.7 
million worth of marijuana. In 2001, raids increased to 65, with $10 
million of pot seized.

Luong Thans Tran, 37, of Toronto and Hao Minh Haong, 35, of Chestermere are 
each charged with possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of 
trafficking and production of a controlled substance.

Both are scheduled to appear in Strathmore Provincial Court on July 8.
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