Pubdate: Wed, 19 Jul 2006
Source: Chatham This Week (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 Chatham This Week
Author: Peter Epp
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Chatham-Kent's newest cash crop appears to be marijuana.

Almost 1,500 plants worth $1.4 million were seized by police from a 
rural property southeast of Ridgetown on July 8, but officials admit 
there's a lot more where that came from.

"It's such a lucrative trade, it's hard to estimate how many pot 
plants are being grown in the Chatham-Kent area," Const. Doug 
Gutteridge of the Chatham-Kent Police Service said last week.

Gutteridge said the plants that police seized "would fit into a small 
piece of property," and speculated there's probably a lot more of it 
being grown throughout the municipality.

"It's a well-known fact that Chatham-Kent has the right ingredients 
for growing this type of plant," he said.

"You've got the good soil, you've got the humidity, and the right 
amount of rainfall.

"Unfortunately, there are those out there who want to make a fast 
buck at the expense of the citizens."

That fast buck is the obvious attraction to growing the illicit 
plant. Police calculate that a mature marijuana plant is worth about 
$1,000, when its street value is projected.

Gutteridge said the value is commonly accepted among police 
authorities, and is based on the experience of undercover cops.

"You get an understanding of what (dealers) are selling it for," he said.

And that street value has been established for some time.

But how does the marijuana plant stack up against the corn 
plant-Ontario's second largest agricultural commodity and a major 
crop in Chatham-Kent?

According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural 
Affairs, between 26,000 and 30,000 kernels of seed are sown into the 
average acre. But local farmers say they're losing money on their 
corn crop because of depressed prices.

The value of each mature corn plant can be measured in pennies.

Gutteridge cautions that Chatham-Kent isn't the only region in 
Southwestern Ontario where marijuana is becoming a cash crop.

"There are many, many other areas that have the same problem, and 
across North America.

"It's because of marijuana's value," he added.

"People have dollar figures in front of their eyes.

They're hoping to make a quick buck. But it doesn't always work out 
that way. They're looking at jail time."

Police made their big bust after getting a phone call.

Gutteridge said while police work hard at chasing information, phone 
calls and tips are a big help.

"Our resources are limited, so you have to use every advantage that you have."
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