Pubdate: Fri, 01 Apr 2005
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Police Heckled At Presentation

Assembly Called To Address Grow Ops

A town hall meeting about illegal marijuana grow ops in Scarborough
grew heated last night when activists supporting the legalization of
cannabis challenged the information being presented by a parade of
local politicians and police.

"This is becoming a joke," the exasperated moderator, a high school
vice-principal, snapped at one point. One person heckled a
presentation by drug squad Staff Insp. Dan Hayes as he warned of the
potential dangers of grow ops and urged the standing-room-only crowd
in a Scarborough church to push politicians for stiffer penalties for
indoor pot growers who get caught.

The majority of grow ops Toronto police are uncovering are in
Scarborough, where more than half of the 320 grow operations raided by
police in 41 and 42 Divisions in 2004 were located, he said.

Other speakers included Councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40,
Scarborough-Agincourt) who said one unanticipated effect of grow ops
is a revival of community spirit to fight them, while Bas Balkissoon
(Ward 41, Scarborough Rouge-River) urged residents to "be nosy ...

"Don't be nice to your neighbour," Balkissoon said. "It's the only way
we're going to drive them (grow ops) out of our area."

Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Monte Kwinter said
his government's "first step" in combatting indoor grow ops began
yesterday with a second-reading debate on a proposed law that will,
among other things, require building inspections of all homes after
police have confirmed a grow op location.

After several outbursts, pot activist Dominic Cramer was given two
minutes to make his pitch.

He said that while his organization does not support illegal grow ops,
law enforcement and politicians are using scare tactics and lies to
create hysteria about grow ops while ignoring prohibition's impact on
their spiralling number. Only a regulated market and legalization will
curb the proliferation, he told the crowd.

Others had questions. A high school student named Mike wanted to know
why last night's emphasis was on the "supply."

"I was wondering what you guys are doing to focus on the demand for
this (pot), because that's probably where the problems are starting,"
he said.

None of the panellists responded immediately.

MP Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough-Agincourt) said he organized the
meeting to give his constituents a chance to learn more about the
problem of marijuana grow operations, to help them learn what to look
for and to understand the importance of reporting their concerns
directly to the police.

Last month, police criticized Karygiannis and Toronto Councillor Mike
Del Grande (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt), who also addressed the
crowd, for conducting their own door-to-door crusade to weed out grow
ops in Scarborough.
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