Pubdate: Tue, 22 Feb 2005
Source: Rocky View Weekly (CN AB)
Address: Box 40, Irricana, AB T0M 1B0
Fax: 403-935-4981
Copyright: 2005 Tall Taylor Publishing Ltd
Author: Shawne Mohl, With files from Dan Singleton
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


A tip from an alert real estate agent has led to what is believed to be 
Alberta's largest methamphetamine lab being shut down, where over 20 pounds 
of the toxic substance was seized and taken off the street.

Didsbury RCMP was contacted by a Sundre-based realtor, who then conducted 
an investigation and once they felt they had enough grounds to move in they 
obtained a search warrant and uncovered the large drug operation.

According to Edmonton based RCMP Cst. Al Fraser with the RCMP's media 
relations department, methamphetamine is considered to be one of the most 
highly addictive drugs that is out there, as well as probably the most 
dangerous for one to take into their body.

"Crystal meth is an extremely addictive drug. It's something made through 
chemistry. It's not something which takes a great deal of time to produce. 
It's not like a marijuana grow operation where you have to plant the tree 
and wait for it to mature and grow. That is not the case at all. It's 
something that is mixed through various chemicals and the by products are 
toxic. The production of it is very dangerous in the sense of the fumes 
that one is using. There are things in there like rubbing alcohol, sodium 
hydroxide, ether, ammonia, paint thinner and other lethal products," Fraser 

Twenty pounds of methamphetamine may not seem like a lot for those who 
aren't used to how the product is used, but according to RCMP this is a 
landslide drug bust and they are glad to get such a large amount off of the 
streets and out of the hands of potential users.

"Because of the sheer amount of product that was seized, (20 pounds is) a 
lot. If you look at what one hit of meth would be that a person would use 
to get their little high, they don't need much. It would probably be about 
the size of a little packet of sugar. So, in your mind, take what a 20 
pound bag of kitty litter would look like from a comparison stand point," 
Fraser explained. "Normally, it's crystal form which is sold in small 
quantities. It is injected or inhaled through fumes, where it would be 
heated over something and then be inhaled. It's very, very addictive."

Fraser says that the RCMP are very, very shocked that Alberta's largest 
meth bust was located in such a rural location, as most people think of 
these types of operations to occur in large urban centres.

"This happened in small town Alberta where one wouldn't think for this to 
happen. When you look at that area it's perceived as beautiful. Who would 
think that there would be a crystal meth lab there?"

Fraser and other members of the RCMP are asking the public for their 
assistance on busting other meth labs.

Fraser says that the by-products used to produce meth can be harmful to the 
environment and local residents should watch for different things.

"Of concern is any by-product that is a result of the production of meth," 
he said. "If anyone in the area should notice any strange discoloration of 
snow, soil or dead wildlife that is out of the norm - please contact the 
Didsbury RCMP Detachment."

Last Wednesday when RCMP attended the rural farm located on the Carstairs 
Blind Line Road, approximately a quarter mile from Highway 22, they were 
assisted by other RCMP members from Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton Drug 
Units along with the Clandestine Lab Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) Team 
from Edmonton.

According to the RCMP these labs are extremely hazardous environments due 
to the variety of chemical compounds often used during the manufacturing 
process. In some cases exposure to these substances can be lethal.

At the meth operation approximately 200 pounds of red phosphorus was also 
discovered. Red phosphorus is a very volatile substance which can cause 
explosion and fire, which increases the dangers of these types of labs to 
both the police and the public in the vicinity.

This operation was discovered to be run out of a large barn on the rural 
location, just east of Highway 22 where the loft of the building had been 
converted into the largest grow op ever uncovered in the province.

"The production opportunity of this loft was substantial," Fraser added.

Randall Oberik, broker of Water Valley's Cowboy Trail Reality, who was out 
at the location showing the house on the property which is for sale, is the 
man who needs to be credited for giving RCMP the tip.

"I visited the property because I have it listed," said Oberik. "Being a 
licensed real estate agent, through the Alberta Real Estate Association, we 
get training on things to look for as far as grow rooms. So this looked 
liked a grow room to me."

Despite not spending much time at the barn location, Oberik said he still 
felt something wasn't right so he contacted police.

"I probably wasn't in there for more than 20 seconds. There was a mezzanine 
level on this building and it had been all sealed up and plywooded in. What 
really aroused my suspicions was the fact that there was a large industrial 
fan going on. It was kind of a fluke, freaky thing that I stumbled across 
it and reported it as we all should. It turned out to be a big operation in 
there apparently."

Mountain View County councillors were disappointed to hear about this bust, 
saying it ruined the image of a safe community.

Mountain View County Reeve Al Kemmere said the bust is a blow to the 
county's image as a safe community.

"We always think that our kids are protected living in the country, but 
this hits pretty close to home," said Kemmere. "This is very disappointing 
to have that related to the county, no doubt about it. I'm totally baffled 
by it. I'm amazed this is going on in the county. You hear about it in 
other areas but you never consider it to happen in your own county."

Mountain View County councillor Charles Van Arnam, whose riding includes 
the site, said: "It is a huge surprise and a disappointment. It's a long 
way from the RCMP detachment (at Didsbury), so obviously people see that as 
an opportunity to take advantage of the situation."

However, the Village of Cremona's Mayor Ken Foreman didn't seem as shocked 
as other politicians, saying it's disappointing but it's reality that the 
area is in such close proximity to the city.

"The reality is we live within 60 minutes of Calgary, and Calgary's 
influence is going to reach out," Foreman said. "If you're in an illegal 
business, you've got a big potential market there to sell your product. We 
shouldn't be surprised that someone would pick a quiet little place like 

"Nobody wants to see organized crime in their community, but it doesn't 
matter where you live, particularly if you are an ideal little spot like 
this. Normally Cremona is a nice place to live, but it is impossible for 
any town to protect itself from this completely."

Philip Reid, whose family has farmed the area around Cremona for more than 
100 years, said he isn't concerned about the lab being in the area, "as 
long as people I know aren't killing themselves on crystal meth".

"I guess it worries me that it can be kept so quiet. I drive down this road 
four times a day and never noticed anything. I never saw any traffic in or 
out of here, nothing made me suspicious," said Reid.

Harold Bellamy, who owns an acreage near the lab site, said he was very 
surprised to see police at the property Wednesday morning.

"I never thought anything like this would go on here," said Bellamy.

Cremona Mayor Foreman is encouraging residents in and around the village to 
be proactive in fighting the drug trade.

"They need to be prepared to take down license plate numbers, identifying 
people, and report it. If the attitude is I don't want to be put out, then 
people are going to have this thing next door to them."

RCMP have laid charges against two Calgary men who are believed to have 
been renting the barn where the meth lab was busted.

[Name redacted], aged 32 and [Name redacted], aged 29 are both charged with 
one count of unlawfully producing a controlled substance, Methamphetamine, 
contrary to Section 7(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. They 
were also charged with unlawfully possessing a substance, Methamphetamine, 
for the purpose of trafficking, contrary to Section 5 (2) of the Controlled 
Drugs and Substances Act.

If anyone wishes to report any type of suspicious behavior they are asked 
to contact the Didsbury RCMP at 335-3381. 
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