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Pubdate: Mon, 04 Nov 2002
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Shane Holladay


Canada Must Get Tough On Growers

Legalizing cannabis will hurt organized crime more than any other group, 
says a veteran member of the Edmonton police's anti-cannabis Green Team.

"One of the older guys compared it to prohibition, not that he was around 
then, but maybe that's almost where we're at," Green Team Det. Clayton Sach 
told The Sun yesterday.

"People want booze, and in the old days we didn't give it to them and the 
mobsters made lots of money.

"Well, now the Hells Angels are making lots of money."

Federal and provincial justice ministers are expected to hear this week 
from Ontario's public safety minister that Canada needs to get tough on 
domestic pot production.

In an average year, Edmonton police make 80 to 90 grow-operation busts, 
said Sach. Last year, that came to about $10 million worth of cannabis plants.

While still facing a huge number of urban and rural grow operations, 
Alberta is still a small operator when compared to B.C., he said.

Sach said he doesn't want to sound cynical about shutting down grow 
operations "but sometimes it's like a big wave going over your head. I 
guess that's police work in general."

He added that he expects big changes in the legislation restricting 
marijuana, and that doesn't really bother him.

"To me, if it gets legalized, it's going to hurt the Hells Angels because 
they're making lots of money off it in B.C."

Former drug section Sgt. Glen Hayden, also of the Canadian Police 
Association, said that without more resources, police won't even dent the 
available supply of pot.

And he said cops should get better access to the proceeds of crime seized 
when busting production facilities.

Sach's partner, Det. Darren Derko, said police now rely heavily on tips 
from neighbours of home-grow operators to help shut them down.

"I don't think people are that educated about marijuana. The debate in the 
media is, the guy caught with one joint, who is he hurting, it's no 
problem," said Derko, who has a different take on the prospect of legal pot.

"Legalizing one more drug is a bad step for us to be making. The debate is, 
alcohol is worse, but adding marijuana to the mix isn't the right call.

"As far as the grows, I don't know if the public is really that aware of 
who's growing next door. We bust grows in brand-new homes in brand new 

In Calgary, people are buying $200,000 homes just to grow marijuana, he 
added, and the same thing is starting to happen here.

"We did one about four months ago. The house wasn't even six months old and 
they were growing pot in it. They had the whole basement set up just for 

"All the electrical power in the rooms were designed to grow marijuana."

The special Green Team unit - that works in conjunction with the RCMP - was 
formed in 1998 in response to the increasing popularity of hydroponic pot 
operations in Alberta.

Mounties in northern Alberta at the time saw a 240% increase in the number 
of hydroponic cases handled, up from 66 busts in 1987.

The industry growth at the time was attributed to a surge in demand from 
south of the border that continues to rise.

Pot dealers from Mexico and the U.S. look to Alberta and B.C. for marijuana 
characterized by its potent punch of THC - the active ingredient in weed.
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