Pubdate: Sat, 17 Sep 2005
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2005 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Gordon Kent
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Homes To Get Brochure On Spotting Pot Operations

EDMONTON - Is your neighbour a pot farmer?

An Edmonton task force fighting marijuana grow-ops plans to mail brochures 
to every home in the city explaining how people can recognize indoor 
cannabis cultivators.

"It happens in every neighbourhood in the city," said John Hall, marketing 
manager for the Edmonton Real Estate Board, on Friday. "It doesn't just 
happen in run-down neighbourhoods or old neighbourhoods."

Real estate agents are part of the Edmonton Stop Marijuana Grow-Ops 
Coalition along with such organizations as police, Capital Health and 
utility companies, Hall said.

"There's a health and safety issue if a realtor stumbles on a grow-op," he 

"These people are criminals. They're literally destroying the houses if 
they move into (them)."

The coalition was put together early in the summer at the urging of Coun. 
Karen Leibovici, Hall said. This is the first time such a group has been 
formed in Edmonton. It's similar to one already established in Calgary, he 

The brochure is being unveiled Sept. 28. Hall wouldn't say how much it will 
cost or who is paying for it.

"It's (creating) awareness that (indoor growing) is going on and it's a 
criminal activity and needs to be reported."

The coalition is acting in collaboration with the Edmonton Community Drug 
Strategy steering committee, one of the committee's first initiatives since 
it was created last year by former Mayor Bill Smith.

Acting police Inspector Brad Doucette, another coalition member, said 
problems caused by grow-ops include property damage, mortgage fraud and 
health hazards from mould, pesticides and fertilizers.

In the B.C. Lower Mainland, armed gangs attacking competing operations 
sometimes mistakenly target innocent families, he said.

"This is certainly a global issue (as well as) a provincial issue."

In the first eight months of the year, police raided 45 Edmonton grow-ops, 
seizing 16,091 marijuana plants worth an estimated $16.1 million and 
$461,000 worth of equipment.

While this illegal activity is often associated with rental properties, 
some growers own the homes, he said.

In one case, a group bought five of seven houses under construction on a 
cul-de-sac north of Calgary in Airdrie, telling the builder to put little 
inside the structures aside from electricity because they'd do the finishing.

Instead, they raised two or three marijuana crops, installed carpet and a 
few other amenities, and sold the houses.

These operations raise prices for consumers through increased insurance 
claims for property damage and humidity-induced rot, stolen electricity to 
run lights and bank losses on phoney mortgages, Doucette said.

"There's a price to pay for all this stuff that we all have to pay. Give us 
a few more tools."

People worried they will get in trouble with gangsters if they call police 
about suspicious houses can contact Crime Stoppers or leave an anonymous 
tip, Doucette said.

Along with the brochures, the coalition is looking into other possible 
action, such as changes to legislation or bylaws.

For example, some B.C. municipalities make the homeowner responsible for 
police costs and other expenses created by a grow-op, Doucette said.

"That's successfully worked in the Lower Mainland."

The average cost to investigate and prosecute one of these operations is 
about $10,000, he said.


- - Lack of snow on the roof in winter (temperatures are kept high inside to 
help plant growth).

- - Boarded windows to stop people looking inside.

- - Stains on the foundation (from moisture created by the high humidity).

- - "Skunky" smell (operators may try to eliminate odors with air filters).

While any of these factors can have an innocent explanation, several 
together increase the chance of a commercial marijuana operation.
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MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman