Pubdate: Tue, 21 Dec 2004
Source: Ladysmith-Chemanius Chronicle (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 BC Newspaper Group & New Media
Author: Edward Hill
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


The Ladysmith RCMP was handed an early Christmas gift Saturday
afternoon when an exposed window led to the bust of a large-scale
marijuana grow-op. It was the second house to be taken down in the
past two weeks.

High intensity lights and rows of leafy pot plants could easily be
seen from the road in the house at 232 3rd St., where police seized
roughly 300 specimens in various stages of growth.

Cpl. Rob Graves said sophisticated wiring and ventilation ran
throughout the basement, preventing odour detection. Nobody was home
when police executed their search warrant, and charges have yet to be

Graves suspects they found the house because of a clever "grow-rip",
where a grow-op is robbed. There were indications some pot plants had
been recently removed, and the window wasn't left uncovered by accident.

"Whoever ripped this place off wanted it discovered," Graves

Meanwhile, two Ladysmith residents are facing drug charges after RCMP
busted a repeat grow-op in an Arbutus Crescent home on Dec. 9.

Police seized an undisclosed number of juvenile marijuana stems and
grow equipment from an operation large enough to produce up to 500
plants, said Staff Sgt. Charlie Schaal.

"This was no 'mom and pop' operation," Schaal said. "If someone is
growing this much, it's for trafficking."

The same residence was taken down in 2001, after which Sandra Smart
was convicted of Production of a Controlled Substance. She received a
six-month conditional sentence, a $100 victim services surcharge and
had her equipment forfeited to the Crown.

Smart, 56, has been charged with the same offence, along with a
46-year-old male resident. Both were arrested without incident and
will be appearing in Duncan provincial court Feb.1 2005. No children
live at the residence and no weapons were seized. More suspects are
being sought in connection with the investigation.

A local resident tipped-off police to this grow-op, initiating the
investigation leading to the search warrant. Schaal advised that while
personal safety is paramount, residents can aid the police by keeping
track of suspected drug houses.

Large numbers of people coming and going or keeping irregular hours,
strange equipment, chemicals, bright lights operating for most of the
day, and the smell can be a tip off, he said.

But after all the efforts of surveillance and an eventual raid, police
are continually frustrated by what they regard as slap-on-the-wrist
sentencing for drug producers.

"We are trying to educate the courts, judges and jurors how grow-ops
are associated with assorted crimes," Schaal said.

The problems are an ugly shopping list of dangers for police, the
community and the environment. Grow-ops often have armed minders, or
can be booby-trapped. They employ assorted combustible chemicals and
fertilizers, which can foster the growth of toxic molds in the residence.

Children are often found living in grow houses, who are at risk from
grow-rips, dangerous chemicals and a generally unclean environment.
Most of these operations aren't independent, small-time producers,
Schaal said. They bring organized crime and the associated threats
directly into the community, driving up violent incidents, drug abuse
and property crimes, he added.

"In the end, the courts need to have a greater impact."
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