HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Province Developing Law To Help Tackle Grow-ops
Pubdate: Fri, 29 Oct 2004
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2004 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Mia Rabson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


MANITOBA Justice is working on possible legislation to help police
shut down marijuana grow operations, which are thought to be fuelling
violent crime in the city.

Winnipeg police have dismantled almost 100 grow operations in the
Winnipeg area so far this year, the biggest one worth over $1.6
million in estimated street value.

Police believe organized crime groups are behind most of the larger
operations, and also believe the expanded drug trade is largely to
blame for the recent surge in violence and gun-related crime on the
city's streets.

Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh said his department is preparing a
list of options to complement existing federal criminal laws dealing
with marijuana operations.

He said one option is to find a way for Manitoba Hydro to help police
find grow ops. Hydroponics equipment requires huge amounts of power,
which is often stolen from Hydro by people who circumvent a house's
electrical meter.

Hydro estimates it loses at least $1 million a year through grow ops
stealing power. Hydro spokesman Glenn Schneider said that estimate
suggests about $75,000 worth of power is stolen every month, and that
doesn't include the operations nobody knows about. "Percentage-wise
it's not a lot, but in dollars, $1 million is a lot of money,"
Schneider said.

Privacy laws and its own company practices bar Hydro from telling
police about a home with a sudden spike in power use.

But Schneider said most of the big grow operations are smart enough to
circumvent the meter so Hydro doesn't know it's losing power.

Tory Leader Stuart Murray said the NDP needs to do more to shut down
the gangs that have blossomed under Premier Gary Doer's watch. He said
more police on the street and a community awareness campaign so the
general public can learn to spot grow operationsshould be priorities.

He also said Hydro should be enlisted to help.

"I understand the role of privacy laws but I think common sense says
when criminals are using privacy laws to further their crime sprees,
something is wrong," Murray said. Ontario introduced new legislation
last week to shut down the burgeoning pot industry there, estimated to
be worth over $1 billion. The bill would let local hydro distribution
companies disconnect hydro without notice in accordance with a court
order or for emergency, safety or system reliability reasons. It would
require building inspections for homes police confirm contained grow
operations and would double top penalties for contravening the Ontario
Fire Code, such as tampering with wiring.

The Ontario legislation would also create a special account for the
proceeds of the seized assets from grow ops and other criminal
activities. The money would be spent for enforcement, crime prevention
and victim compensation.

Mackintosh said that law is being scrutinized by Manitoba to see what,
if anything, would apply here.
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