HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Canada Ranks Third Supplying U.S. Pot
Pubdate: Sun, 03 Nov 2002
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
Author: Antonella Artuso, Free Press Queen's Park Bureau Chief


We Trail Only Mexico And Colombia In Exporting High-Grade Marijuana South.

TORONTO -- Canada is third only to Mexico and Colombia as a supplier of 
high-grade marijuana to the United States market, says Ontario Public 
Safety and Security Commissioner Bob Runciman.

"That's not something to be proud of," Runciman said. "We can see the 
United States wanting us to play a more active role in dealing with this."

Runciman will push the federal government to bring in minimum sentences for 
pot house operators when he meets with his federal and provincial justice 
ministers in Calgary this week.

Runciman said local police officers cite "catch-and-release justice" as a 
key problem in the proliferation of pot houses.

Police suspect there are more than 100 grow houses in the Peel region alone.

Operators usually rent houses, steal hydro and leave the place in shambles 
and a fire hazard.

Offenders in the United States are usually handed stiff jail terms, but 
it's not unusual in Ontario for convicted growers to get a conditional 
sentence or short jail term.

"If you look at some of the penalties versus the potential profits . . . 
it's a high-profit, low-risk business," Runciman said. "Somebody described 
it as a plague."

Organized crime, especially bikers, are believed behind many of the grow 

Police estimate indoor marijuana growing is a $1-billion- a-year business 
in Ontario, the third-largest agricultural cash crop.

Police services in Ontario executed about 160 warrants for marijuana 
growing in 2000, and 650 warrants the following year.

Runciman said police services are becoming reluctant to put in the 
time-consuming work required to bust a pot house when the grower gets such 
a relatively light sentence.

It's estimated a small crop of 50 plants will yield annual profits of 
$55,000. Offenders can get 60-to 90-day jail sentences but more typically a 
conditional sentence.

An average size crop of 300 plants can net its grower $350,000 annually and 
a jail sentence of up to nine months. But it's not unusual to get a 
conditional sentence.

The penalty for someone caught with a large crop of 20,000 plants, which 
can produce $30 million annually, is an 18-month jail term.

Runciman said the sentences are far less severe than those in the United 
States, where drug crimes can net the offender a life term.
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