Pubdate: Fri, 01 Feb 2008
Source: Penticton Western (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Penticton Western
Author: Tracy Clark
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)


Several firearms, numerous plants and more than $50,000 of cultivated
marijuana were among the items seized during two marijuana
grow-operation busts in South Okanagan homes.

Three people are on bail facing a host of charges following the
searches by Oliver/Osoyoos RCMP on Jan. 18 and Jan. 23 inside and out
of town boundaries.

The first search was conducted at 336 Avenue and 121 Street south of
the town, where police confiscated 20 pounds of cultivated marijuana,
growing equipment, cash and firearms. A 31-year-old Oliver man is
facing charges of production of marijuana, two counts of careless
storage of a firearm and possession of marijuana for the purpose of
trafficking. The investigation led police to search another home in
the Fairview/White Lake Road area where they said evidence indicated
another grow-op had previously been set up.

Sgt. Kevin Schur said modified electrical wiring and water systems at
both homes were cut off by RCMP for safety reasons. Before the
electricity can be restored, the homes will be required to undergo an
electrical inspection.

The second grow-operation bust, however, has been subject to more
enforcement. The two occupants of the 364 Avenue and 77th Street
property in Oliver are both facing criminal charges and the homeowner
was issued tickets under the town's controlled substances bylaw.

Police uncovered 65 young marijuana plants and two firearms at home,
where they arrested a 27-year-old woman and 32-year-old man. They are
facing charges of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana
for the purpose of trafficking, two counts of unauthorized possession
of a firearm and unsafe storage of a firearm.

In addition, the homeowners have been issued three tickets under the
town bylaw, including a $1,000 fine for altering the home for a
grow-operation and a $500 fine each for diverting exhaust fans and
obstructing an exit. This is the first time the bylaw has been put
into use since it was adopted by the town and Schur said RCMP support
the intent of the bylaw.

"It addresses the health and safety of anyone associated with the
property," he said, pointing out that this can include the property
owner, future tenants or residents and neighbours. "It's a terrible
health hazard to have a grow-op that has been there for any amount of

Under the bylaw, once the grow-operation has been dismantled, the town
conducts an inspection of the home looking for potential health or
safety hazards. This includes hazards from modified or bypassed
electrical and water systems, mould from the humidity of the grow-op
and other chemical dangers. If the house is deemed hazardous under
Health Canada regulations, it can be condemned. Once condemned, the
owner would be required to pay for cleaning and disinfecting of the
home to bring it to federal standards before it would be habitable

In this case, however, an inspection did not result in a need to
condemn the home. But Schur said the other fines that it was subjected
to will ensure that any future owners of the home are made aware of
the home's use as a grow-operation.

Such protection is not in place in the Regional District of Okanagan
Similkameen, where the Jan. 18 grow-op was located. If such a bylaw
was in place there, Schur said the rural Oliver home may have been
deemed as uninhabitable.

"It was obviously a more substantial grow-operation," said Schur,
pointing out that the entire rental property had been used for growing
marijuana. "I really think in that case the municipal powers, being
the regional district, would have definitely considered condemning
that house."

Without such a bylaw in place, the only actions that can be taken
include criminal charges and the electrical inspection required before
Fortis will restore the electricity.

Under the Community Charter, regional districts do not have the
authority to enact controlled substances remediation bylaws. But the
RDOS has recently passed a motion to lobby the provincial government
to change the rules. Once the RDOS has a bylaw in place, Schur said it
will be another deterrent for would-be pot growers.

"It's not going to be a good place to grow marijuana," he said.
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