Pubdate: Thu, 27 Sep 2007
Source: Asian Pacific Post, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 The Asian Pacific Post.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Competing Canadian-based Asian organized crime syndicates are setting
up elaborate marijuana grow-ops in Southern California selling highly
potent "B.C. Bud" for up to $6,000 a pound.

The clandestine setups - many in posh neighbourhoods, including the
Inland Valley of San Bernardino County - are similar to those found in
B.C., investigators said.

The San Bernardino Sun, in a series of articles published this month,
pointed to a combination of factors fuelling the grow-op industry's
move south.

Canadian police have focused more attention on grow-ops, for instance,
and competing Canadian gangs have saturated their domestic markets,
the paper said.

Canada produces about 800 tons of illicit cannibis each year, about 60
per cent of which enters the U.S., according to the International
Narcotics Control Board.

In British Columbia, the Organized Crime Agency (OCA) estimates that
outlaw motorcycle gangs and Vietnamese-based crime groups control
about 85 per cent of the marijuana production and distribution in the
province, while the RCMP maintains, "indoor soil-based (organic) grow
operations are increasingly linked to criminal elements from Southeast
Asia, usually of Vietnamese extraction."

B.C.'s annual marijuana crop, sold at street level, is worth over $7
billion, according to a study called Marijuana Growth in British
Columbia by The Fraser Institute.

And it is estimated that there are roughly 17,500 marijuana grow-ops
in B.C.

Police agencies destroy nearly 3,000 marijuana grow-ops a year in
B.C., but the industry is so profitable that producers are prepared to
take the criminal risk.

"There is a war going on up in Canada," said Los Angeles County
Sheriff's Department Capt. Dennis Werner, chief of the agency's
Narcotics Bureau. "The war is between Asian (drug-trafficking
organizations) and outlaw motorcycle gangs who are looking to move in
on the Asian families," he told the San Bernardino Sun.

With increased competition and mounting losses, the Asian groups began
heading south, doing business in Washington and Oregon before moving
into California.

About a year ago, a group of 41 grow houses run by a single Asian
crime syndicate was busted in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas,
said Sarah Pullen, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration. Fifteen more Northern California homes were busted in

"The same techniques we're seeing here are the same they used in
Canada," said Jackie Long, special agent supervisor for the California
Department of Justice.

"Because we are the most populous state in the nation, they've got a
lot of customers. That's a big part of why it's here," said Art
Marinello, supervisor for the San Bernardino County West End Narcotic
Enforcement Team. "Now they don't have to run the risk of transporting
it through the borders or across multiple states."

During the first few months of busts, local authorities began to
suspect a link between local marijuana grow-ops and Asian crime rings
with cross-border connections.

"A lot of the names we're now starting to tie in to activity both up
north and down here," one investigator confirmed. "I believe that's a
relatively recent development. It's an amazing network, to say the

In San Bernardino's Inland Valley, grow houses have been set up by
individuals, by groups of people working on only one house, and by
coordinated organizations that have in some cases converted at least
10 suburban homes, authorities say.

Authorities are struggling to arrest the major players -those with
ties to Asian organized crime - who are financing and overseeing the
more sophisticated networks.

Within large organizations, the work of setting up grow houses is
divided as it would be in any other company, investigators say.

The people at the bottom of the ladder - in many cases poor immigrants
working for meager wages - are the ones tending to the homes, while
their overlords typically evade detection and prosecution.

"A lot of people baby-sitting these houses really are just baby-
sitting," and aren't the brains behind the operation, a police
official said.
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