Pubdate: Mon, 07 Apr 2008
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Province


Anyone who thinks that growing marijuana in B.C. is a victimless crime
should take a close look at his or her electricity bill.

Officials who spend long, hard hours battling the rampant rise in
grow-ops point out that this illegal activity often involves the
widespread theft of electricity.

With an estimated 25,000 grow-ops currently in business in B.C., that
theft amounts to a whopping two per cent of B.C. Hydro's total power
production, or six per cent of total electricity consumption by the
utility's residential ratepayers.

In other words, we're all subsidizing those who run grow-ops -- and
who make hundreds of thousands annually at our expense.

Grow-ops are also a primary funding source for many other forms of
organized crime, which only add to the rapidly escalating costs of
policing and running our criminal-justice system.

Even the rate you pay for your household fire insurance is directly
impacted by grow-ops, because a house in which a grow-op is located is
29 times more likely to catch fire than a normal residence.

In fact, grow-ops have grown so much in this province that the police
and the courts can no longer keep up.

As criminology professor Dr. Darryl Plecas told Province Fraser Valley
columnist Brian Lewis last week: "The justice system is inept at
dealing with this problem."

Plecas also says the chance of someone running a discovered B.C.
grow-op going to jail is less than one half of one per cent. The same
person in Alberta would be six times as likely to receive a jail
sentence, he adds.

The legal system's lack of ability to control grow-ops has reached the
point where some municipal groups have simply given up on it and
looked to other alternatives.

One of those is the Electrical Fire Safety Initiative (EFSI), recently
developed by Plecas and the Surrey Fire Department under chief Len

This program hits grow-ops hard in the pocketbook -- much harder than
any court-imposed fine or short jail sentence -- by enforcing
public-safety measures, building and fire codes and so on.

In Surrey, the program has resulted in a dramatic decrease in
grow-ops. And it is now being adopted by other Lower Mainland

The best part is that a grow-op itself has to pay the full costs of
remediation and repair. So, in effect, it funds its own demise.

And that makes those who run the grow-op the victim of their own
activities -- not the rest of us.
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