Pubdate: Sat, 11 Aug 2007
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2007 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Dan Arsenault, Crime Reporter
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


A local pot grower thinks the RCMP was high as a kite in assessing 
the value of some weed they seized in a recent drug bust in Stewiacke.

Comments made by police in a recent newspaper article indicating that 
170 plants taken in a late-July operation had a value of $200,000 are 
"craziness," according to the grower, who contacted The Chronicle 
Herald to say there isn't that much money in marijuana.

"That's leading people off into the wrong direction that there's a 
lot of money in this business," said the man, who refused to give his 
name and will be referred to by the pseudonym Mr. Green.

He has no connection to the Stewiacke drug bust.

According to Nova Scotia RCMP spokesman Cpl. Joe Taplin, the RCMP 
normally doesn't release financial amounts of any contraband in drug 
seizures and the figure quoted was likely a rough estimate.

Usually, the RCMP lets drug experts talk about financial estimates in 
court, he said.

Mr. Green, a middle-aged man who isn't from Halifax, agreed to an 
interview to discuss his business, which he said won't make anyone 
rich unless it's done as a full-time career.

Dressed in white sneakers, light blue jeans, a hooded jacket and a 
ball cap, the construction worker spoke at length about his risky 
financial sideline earlier this week.

A few years ago, he and two partners invested a total of $25,000 to 
buy eight 1000-watt lights at $1,500 each and convert a house they 
bought to start growing weed. It was an idea the three kicked around 
for more than a year after one of them learned a few tricks of the 
trade while living in another province.

Before taking the plunge, they agreed on a few things.

"The first decision you've got to make (is): Am I prepared to go to 
jail for this?" Mr. Green said.

After getting past that hurdle, they opted to limit their own chances 
of jail time by having only one person make deliveries to their 
buyer. If one of the three wanted out of the operation, it was no 
problem, but the other two would have to reimburse him for the costs 
of the growing equipment and the like.

They decided to pay high power bills for their operation rather than 
risk cutting an illegal, free source of power from transmission lines 
to feed their lights. That meant power bills of up to $1,000 a month.

They buy tiny cuttings of plants, or "babies," from someone who keeps 
a "mother plant" solely to supply growers. They used to keep their 
own mother plant but stopped that because it required its own growing 
light, which meant they'd have one less pound of dope to sell during 
each of their four harvests a year.

In a plastic-wrapped room with fans to keep air moving, they grow up 
to 20 plants under each light.

After three months, the plants are harvested when they stand about 
one metre tall. With each plant producing anywhere from a half-ounce 
to an ounce, the partners get about one pound or more from the plants 
under each light.

Mr. Green, who thinks of himself as farmer, said harvests are the 
most nerve-racking time. They spend a day drying the weed prior to 
delivery to one of two buyers they rely on.

Usually, Mr. Green makes the drive alone. He goes day or night and is 
extremely cautious.

"You watch your speed. You make sure you stop at every stop sign. You 
watch everything on the road. You're the most careful that you've 
ever been in your life."

The buyer then branches it out to street dealers, with everyone 
taking a monetary cut to make their risk worthwhile.

"He'll buy it from us for $2,200 to $2,400. He'll sell it at a $400 
or $500 profit per pound to the dealers, who'll then get as much as 
$4,400 a pound out of it."

In their best year so far, Mr. Green and his friends each pocketed 
$20,000 in profit and that's with one person working almost full-time 
on the plants.

"There's (part-time) jobs out there that you can make as much money 
at and not have to worry," he said.

Worry is something that he and his friends do a lot.

Watching police drive by their house isn't easy and having company - 
something they do, so the house looks normal to neighbours - can be 
worrisome. If Mr. Green has a guest who looks suspicious about 
things, he often lights a joint to distract that person.

Mr. Green tells very few people what he's up to.

"A fish doesn't get caught if it doesn't open its mouth," he said.

However, he can't act like he knows nothing about the dope-growing 
business because he knows at least five other groups running 
operations just like his.

Buyers are paying less for weed than they did three years ago and a 
variety of things can really hurt the bottom line. Mould and spider 
mites can destroy crops in very little time and the plants are 
sensitive to light. A power outage some years ago caused a bumper 
crop to turn to seed, cutting its value by well over half.

Mr. Green said the only way to get rich is to fill a big warehouse or 
barn with 40 or so lights and grow much more weed, something he and 
his friends aren't considering.

"We're probably just average guys between 35 and 55 years old trying 
to just live the normal life and make a little bit of side money."

When it comes to the morality of profiting from drug use, Mr. Green 
said he believes adults can make their own choices.

Although he started smoking it at age 16, he said he'd "kick their 
arse" if he knew any 16 year-olds who were smoking weed.

He would never deal any harder drugs and would not arm himself to 
conduct his business.

"If you start putting a gun in your house, then you're making another 
choice to be a criminal. To me if you have a gun in your house for 
protection of something like weed, then you've already made that 
decision that you're going to shoot somebody if they came in to steal 
that weed."

Knowing what he now knows, he said he'd still get into the business, 
despite the stress and smaller-than-expected profits - just on a smaller scale.

Instead of buying a house with eight lights, he would have put one 
light in his house and started growing his own "smoking weed," plus 
some to sell to pay for a yearly vacation.

For now, the partners have no plans to increase or shrink their 
business, at least until they pay off the house.
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