HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Part 4 Of 5 - Growbusters
Pubdate: Sat, 13 Apr 2002
Source: Kitchener-Waterloo Record (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Kitchener-Waterloo Record
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Series: Part 4 Of 5


Anatomy Of A Pot House

Police Officers Find Shrines To Buddha Near The Entrance Of Most Grow Homes

It's the first thing you see when you walk into a marijuana grow house in 
Vancouver -- and it has nothing to do with pot.

Beside the front door there is a small glass Buddha. In front of it are two 
bowls of fruit, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of rum, four small shot glasses 
filled with water and coloured bank notes that look like Monopoly money.

Sometimes, photographs of dead family members sit around the shrine, which 
is supposed to bring good luck.

Police in Waterloo Region have been walking into the same scene since home 
pot growing blew in on an easterly wind from Vancouver in June 2000.

Pot plants are often the only living things in these homes, tended by 
gardeners who visit a few hours at a time. In February, Vancouver cops 
tracked one grower to 11 different houses in a single day.

Growbuster drug cops wear only gardening gloves, looking far more casual 
than their colleagues in Waterloo Region, who look more like scientists 
entering a contaminated laboratory. They sport full-length protective paper 
suits, goggles and breathing gear on their faces, and wear two pairs of 
gloves each.

Staff Sgt. Ray Massicotte, head of the region's drug squad, says he doesn't 
want to take any risks with his team's health.

In Vancouver -- unlike Waterloo Region -- hydro theft by growers is the 
exception, not the rule.

In fact, 80 per cent of Vancouver's growers simply pay their hydro bills, 
which run into thousands of dollars per year.

Hydro officials there rarely report abnormally high usage, as long as the 
bills get paid.

Sgt. Rollie Woods, head of the Vancouver police drug unit, said police are 
often forced to make freedom-of-information requests to get data on paying 

It's a different story in Waterloo Region.

Stung by the loss of millions of dollars due to the theft by pot growers, 
local hydro officials have been more than happy to co-operate with police.

Most if not all pot grows busted here since home growing exploded have been 
carried out with search warrants for stolen electricity.

In Vancouver, 98 per cent of pot houses are rented, mostly in the city's 
east end where rents are cheaper.

Rental homes are used by Waterloo Region growers as well. But in some 
cases, a grower may own three or four houses, all full of plants, and live 
in another house that is free of pot.

People are then recruited to tend to the marijuana.

It's a business that can take you from hungry to wealthy within months.

In Cambridge, a land title search of a new suburban home on the west side 
revealed that the owner, a man of Vietnamese descent bought the house for 
$185,000 last fall, with a mortgage of $138,750 after the down payment. Six 
weeks later, his house was paid off.

Within days the property was raided. An 18-year-old male was arrested.

Pot facts

In Vancouver, the average pot house has 230 plants with 15 to 20 growing 
lights. In Waterloo Region, the norm is 300 plants and more than 20 lights.

Police say they often find respiratory medications such as asthma inhalers 
in these houses, where the air is thick with the damp stench of pot and 

The clones (baby plants) cost the grower $10 to $15 each and need about 18 
hours of light every day. After about 10 days, they are transferred to pots.
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