Pubdate: Fri, 08 Oct 2004
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2004 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Paul Egan
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Hydro Worries About Law Enforcement Role

The Manitoba government wants to look at proposed Ontario legislation
aimed at cracking down on illegal marijuana grow operations, a
Manitoba Justice spokesman said yesterday.

But Manitoba Hydro has concerns about legislation that would shift its
inspectors or other employees into a law enforcement role, Hydro
spokesman Glenn Schneider said.

Hydro utilities in Ontario may soon have the power to cut off
electricity to suspected grow ops without any warning to the
property's occupants.

Ontario Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter said yesterday he
plans legislation this fall that would allow electricity companies to
act immediately to cut power if they believe it is being used to grow
marijuana plants indoors.

Suspicion could be aroused, for example, by an unusual pattern of
hydro use or excessive heat coming from a home, indicative of the
bright lamps used for growing marijuana indoors, Kwinter said.

Manitoba Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh will look at the Ontario
legislation once it's tabled, a spokesman said. Grow ops inside what
appear to be residences are a major problem in the Winnipeg area,
where they are linked to organized crime. In the first six months of
2004, police busted more than 70 such operations. Last week, they took
down one home that contained $1.6 million worth of the drug and
another with pot worth an estimated $728,000.

Police were to shut another grow op yesterday in north Winnipeg, but
it was not immediately known how much marijuana was seized.

Schneider said Manitoba Hydro is concerned about grow ops because they
usually involve theft of electricity and because methods used to
bypass electricity meters pose a safety hazard.

The utility would follow any legislation the province enacts, but "we
look at it as a law enforcement issue and not a Hydro issue," he said.

It would not be a good idea for Hydro employees to make determinations
about which homes contain grow ops, he said.

Earlier this year, a proposal to have Winnipeg real estate agents work
with police on identifying grow ops was shot down amid similar
concerns from real estate agents. Grow ops, which Kwinter called a
"real scourge," are estimated to cost Ontario $80 million a year in
electricity theft. No estimate is available for Manitoba, Schneider
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