Pubdate: Wed, 20 Oct 2004
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2004 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Distributors Can Cut Power to Suspected Homes

TORONTO -- The Ontario government opened another front in its war on
marijuana grow houses yesterday with new legislation designed to allow
electricity distributors to cut power to homes they suspect are
growing pot.

If passed, the legislation introduced by Community Safety Minister
Monte Kwinter would allow distributors to cut power with a court
order, or without one if they have "reasonable cause" to suspect a
threat to public safety or system reliability.

"The energy distributor will make all of those determinations," said
Kwinter, adding that the companies "have the obligation and the
responsibility" to make that call.

"If they have reasonable cause, they can cut off that electricity
without notice."

Kwinter, who called grow houses "a blight on our neighbourhoods," said
the bill would also double the maximum fines under the Fire Protection
and Prevention Act for tampering with electrical wiring, a common
grow-op tactic designed to disguise the telltale consumption of large
quantities of power.

'Important step' Addressing the Ontario Provincial Police
Association's annual meeting, Premier Dalton McGuinty said the
legislation is "an important step" in its fight to crack down on
residential marijuana grow operations.

While the media played up the news earlier this year of the discovery
of a marijuana grow operation in an old brewery outside Barrie,
McGuinty said most grow operations are in neighbourhood homes rather
than in factories.

This is a "billion-dollar-a-year business, one that funds the
trafficking of guns and hard drugs while threatening the health and
safety of our communities," he said.

"They are a serious issue."

Earlier yesterday, Kwinter visited a Toronto fire academy, where he
outlined a litany of hazards posed by grow ops. Firefighters
demonstrated the dangers posed when hydro meters are bypassed to steal

Fires are 40 times more likely in a grow op than a regular home, and
they're often infested with mould, structurally unsafe and dangerous
due to electrical rewiring and overloading, Kwinter said. Inspected

Under the new law, any home that's been used to grow marijuana would
have to be inspected before it could be used again as a dwelling. The
owner would have to pay for any repairs required to fix damage caused
by criminal activity.

The legislation would also protect homebuyers from unwittingly taking
over a former grow-op house that has been structurally damaged.

Kwinter said electricity distributors already have the right to cut
power under the Ontario Energy Board Systems Code, but the bill would
entrench that right in legislation.

Conservative critic Garfield Dunlop complained that the legislation
fails to seek tougher sentencing laws under the Criminal Code.

"If the government is really serious about the issue, they should be
targeting the drug criminals with tougher sentencing, not the threat
of someone pulling off the hydro switch," Dunlop said in the
legislature. "What about penalties under the Criminal Code?" 
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