Pubdate: Sat, 03 Jul 2004
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
Author: Teviah Moro
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


A two-week police sting in Woodstock has led to a $1.6-million
marijuana bust, the largest in the city's history. Officers swooped
down on an illegal marijuana grow operation in a restaurant building
and found 1,671 marijuana plants and growing equipment valued at $150,000.

The grow house is connected to a larger operation, possibly with
processing labs in Toronto for Ontario distribution and export to the
United States, Chief Ron Fraser of Oxford Community Police said yesterday.

"There is no doubt in our mind that this was an organized crime-based
operation," he said.

The pot-growing operation was found above and beside the Gold Coin
Restaurant on downtown Dundas Street, Fraser said.

Downtown police beat patrols tipped off the force's intelligence,
which Wednesday searched 411 and 413 Dundas St., Fraser said.

Mayor Michael Harding said the site had all the hallmarks of a "major
criminal enterprise.

"This was terribly shocking that something as sophisticated as this
operation could exist unnoticed for such a period of time," he said.

Harding, who toured the operation yesterday, said the restaurant had
been in business for years but had recently changed ownership.

"The entire upper floors and the cellar had been converted to a grow
operation," he said.

The crop, which was thought to be bound for the U.S., brings to light
concerns about a porous international border, he said.

"This may be one of the reasons why Americans are as concerned about .
. . decriminalization of marijuana (in Canada)," he said.

Stiffer sentences in such cases would make people "think twice" about
setting up pot-growing operations in Woodstock, said Harding, who
praised the role of police.

Charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking, production of
a controlled substance and breach of a recognizance of bail are Phuc
Van Phu, 43, and Tuan The Ha, 42.

The two men have been linked to Toronto addresses, police said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin