Pubdate: Fri, 12 Aug 2005
Source: Maple Ridge Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc
Author: Matthew Claxton
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


The lawn needs to be mowed more often, and some of the plants in the flower 
beds around the house on 245B Street are overgrown, but otherwise it looks 
just like any other house on the block. It's in a good neighbourhood, just 
west of Thornhill and backing onto the almost-completed Samuel Robertson 

But like many other Maple Ridge Homes, the house concealed a marijuana grow 
operation, one raided by police Tuesday morning.

Ridge Meadows RCMP investigators allowed members of the media a glimpse 
inside the grow op. It was the latest in a recent string of raids made 
against local marijuana growers.

It also shows the changing face of marijuana production in the Lower Mainland.

The home is relatively well kept on the outside, not the run down rental 
property usually associated with a grow op.

"The trend is right now that they're not crummy little houses, they're 
quite nice houses in nice neighbourhoods," said Cpl. Bernie Smandych, the 
detachment's media liaison officer.

The growers are trying to keep their farms looking like normal suburban 
homes. The one raided Tuesday had all the blinds drawn upstairs to keep out 
prying eyes, but hedges around the property helped ensure privacy.

The smell of the marijuana isn't obvious until you go inside. The growers 
had vented air from their farm into the attic and from there outside, where 
it wouldn't be noticed.

Inside, the fact that it is not a normal house is obvious.

There are signs that the occupants were camping out, rather than living 
there full time.

Furniture is cheap and mattresses rest on bedroom floors. The kitchen has 
rice cookers, prepackaged foods and an almost empty fridge.

In the living room a television sits in one corner next to boxes of Asian 
DVDs and bootlegged videotapes.

Many of the tapes are of children's movies, and there are children's 
picture books in several rooms.

At least part of the time, the growers had their kids with them.

The grow operation is located in the home's crawl space, which is a little 
over five feet high at its highest point. The entrance to the crawl space 
has been covered with carpet, and under that heavy padlocks were in place.

"Your average person wouldn't camouflage it like that," said Cst. Sundher, 
who asked that his first name not be used.

There were just 218 plants in the space, growing in two rooms in plastic 
pots under the glare of 1,000 watt light bulbs. Cans of fertilizer, used 
pots with the stubs of harvested plants, fans, ducts and wiring make the 
space difficult to navigate. Scales and a large box of Ziploc freezer bags 
sit in the corner where the bud was dried and packaged for sale.

Sundher said the growers could have produced a crop about every six weeks, 
and had likely been in that home for at least six months already.

In one corner of the crawl space a spider web of wires is avoided by the 
police officers.

The growers had installed capacitors and ballasts to power their light 
bulbs, along with a bypass on the B.C. Hydro meter to avoid paying for the 
enormous amount of electricity being used.

Although only a few people would be needed to grow the crop, marijuana 
cultivation provides money for legal and illegal workers in a variety of 

The fertilizers, pots, soil, lights and other equipment are all bought 
legally, at either specialist hydroponic stores or at gardening supply outlets.

Electricians set up the lights and capacitors, but they can't be charged 
because they work on the houses before any plants are installed, and are 
usually not caught.

Finally, the marijuana is sold through an organized crime ring, in the case 
of this home most likely an Asian gang.

No one was arrested when police arrived at the house on 245B Street, but a 
penalty will fall on the home's owner.

He or she will pay, under a new municipal bylaw, for the cost of cleaning 
out the grow operation, including police time and resources, the cost of 
B.C. Hydro crews working on the dangerous wiring and inspection fees.

Many grow houses become saturated with mold or dangerous chemicals, and 
have to be torn down or rebuilt almost from scratch.

In other cases, the home's owners wait for police to leave, sell the home 
to another grower, and the process starts all over again.
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MAP posted-by: Beth