HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 43 Kids Caught In Middle Of National Grow-Op Raids
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Nov 2002
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 The Province
Author: Ian Austin


Children Taken From Homes As 73,000 Plants Pulled In 7 Days

Infants and children are the latest victims in the marijuana grow-op industry.

Between Nov. 17 and 24, police across Canada picked up 43 children aged 
four months to 17 years as part of Operation Greensweep III, a nationwide 
crackdown that confiscated 73,000 marijuana plants worth some $73 million 
on the street.

"Frequently we find young children in these operations," Insp. Kash Heed, 
head of the Vancouver police drug unit, said yesterday.

"Children are exposed to mould spores, carbon-monoxide, pesticides, carbon 
dioxide, ozone exposure and electrocution.

"Children's Hospital has reported an increase in respiratory problems that 
they believe is due to grow-ops."

Heed said the 43 children apprehended at the grow-ops -- including 11 kids 
in B.C. -- were turned over to social services or other family members.

The inspector, who attended a news conference yesterday along with 14 other 
officials, said Vancouver is getting a handle on the lucrative trade, but 
conceded it is spreading elsewhere.

"We are at half of what we were two to three years ago," said Heed. "We've 
had a marked decrease in the number of grow-ops, but we feel we have just 
moved the problem."

Three years ago, police estimated there were 30,000 grow-ops in B.C., of 
which 7,000 to 8,000 were in Vancouver.

With the heat on in Vancouver, grow-ops are moving to the suburbs and to 
Alberta and Ontario, Heed said.

He estimates that 80 per cent of grow-ops are now controlled by organized 
crime, including outlaw motorcycle gangs and Asian-based crime organizations.

While the typical grow-op had been in a dilapidated, boarded-up home, 
Const. Tim Shields of the Surrey RCMP said grow-ops are now cropping up in 
brand-new, $400,000 homes customized for grow-ops.

Shields said that while the crime is extremely lucrative, the punishment is 

"We believe marijuana grow-ops are a poison in our community," said Shields.

"If you look at the courts, the vast majority are conditional sentences, no 
jail time.

"The typical fine is $1,000 to $3,000. It takes three plants in order to 
cover that fine and that is sometimes with a home that has 500 plants."

A home with 500 plants and four crops a year could generate marijuana worth 
$2 million on the street.

Police estimate that 80 per cent of B.C. pot is grown for export, and the 
numbers tell the story.

Despite increased surveillance at border vehicle crossings and rural areas 
where "mules" carry pot across the Canada-U.S. border, the profit margin 
ensures that people will always line up to make a windfall.

Pot that sells on the street for $2,300 per pound in Canada goes for about 
$9,000 per pound south of the border.

Also on the increase is the degree of sophistication.

As part of the week-long Operation Green-sweep, police raided a rural 
stronghold in Mission. Along with 1,000 marijuana plants, police seized an 
excavator, two portable generators and 25 air-conditioners.

The arrest typifies the geographic shift in the grow-op industry.

Though the operation is in Mission, two Vancouver residents were found in 
the home and now face charges.

The Straight Facts About Pot

Operation Greensweep 3 turned up 73,000 pot plants in a nationwide grow-op 
sweep Nov. 17-24.

Police found 43 children aged four months to 17 years in the grow-ops, and 
turned them over to social services or other family members.

Human 'mules' are paid hundreds of dollars per trip to carry B.C. bud 
across the border in backpacks, duffel bags or hockey bags.

Three years ago, police said there were 30,000 B.C. grow-ops, 7,000 to 
8,000 in Vancouver. Police believe only half as many grow-ops are now in 
Vancouver, but admit that criminals are relocating their operations to the 
suburbs or other provinces.

Police say 80 per cent of grow-ops are run by organized crime.

Not addictive like alcohol or tobacco, marijuana can be habit-forming, 
cause respiratory problems and lead to or worsen psychological problems.

Eighty per cent of B.C. pot is grown for export to the United States.

Cross-border trade is very lucrative -- pot is worth four times as much 
south of the border.

An average grow-op bust turns up 224 plants. At four crops a year, that 
operation grows pot worth $900,000 on the street.

The Canadian government has given hundreds of Canadians clearance to 
legally smoke 'medical marijuana' to treat chronic health problems.
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