HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Council Studies Ways To Combat Marijuana Grow Houses
Pubdate: Fri, 12 Nov 2004
Source: Etobicoke Guardian (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 Etobicoke Guardian
Author: Stuart Green
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


A proliferation of marijuana grow houses in the city -- specifically
in northwest Scarborough -- has city councillors considering new ways
to combat the new urban menace.

Monday, the city's planning committee backed a set of new weapons to
employ in their battle most of which would require sweeping
legislative changes at the provincial and federal levels and greater
co-operation with police.

"We have to take action," said committee chair Gerry Altobello (Ward
35, Scarborough Southwest).

The committee is asking the city to go to the senior levels of
government to get more power for property standards and health
inspectors who could then use building safety and public health
concerns as grounds for entry to shut down the illegal operation.

In the meantime, the city will embark on a public awareness campaign
to help residents identify potential grow houses in their community.

"We have to come up with a program to give the public the information
on how to recognize these grow houses so they can be reported,"
Altobello said.

The situation has reached critical proportions in northwest
Scarborough specifically where police said 154 of the 279 grow-ops
busted this year were located.

"We're doing a better job of finding them, but I think there's more
there," said Det. Court Booth of the Toronto police drug squad, adding
that in the last four years the total of grow-ops in the city has
jumped from 30 to almost 300.

Court said the boom in Toronto is the result of successful operations
in Peel and York regions where police were able to force the growers
out of town combined with an abundance of cheap rental accommodation
in Toronto.

In the Agincourt area, growers are renting houses for a year and
paying with 12 post-dated cheques to landlords who may be either
unaware or turning a blind eye to what's going on once the property is
leased, area councillors hypothesized.

"I really have concerns when people play ostriches and put their heads
in the sand and pretend it's not happening," said Mike Del Grande
(Ward 39. Scarborough-Agincourt).

"It's one a day and we haven't even scratched the surface

Neighbouring councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt),
who is hosting a series of town hall meetings on the issue in the
coming week, agreed.

"The suburbs ain't what they used to be," he said. "Quiet family
friendly neighbourhoods are under assault right now and the basic
fabric of our communities is being stretched and torn."

The city should be getting some immediate help.

On Oct. 29, an informal agreement between the police and the city's
property standards department means that information is now flowing to
the city that enables it to put building code orders on the closed
houses to ensure they are up to code before being sold or leased out

"The objective of the exercise on the city side is to ultimately
ensure that the premises are safe before they're restored to their
intended use," said Pam Coburn, director of municipal licensing.

The problem is that the grow operation usually leaves residual
chemical residue and mold that is potentially dangerous.

Growers may also bore into the foundation to steal hydro service,
which could destabilize the home.

City council is expected to deal with the issue at its Nov. 30 meeting.
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