HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Grow-ops Creating Headache For Business
Pubdate: Fri, 07 May 2004
Source: Red Deer Advocate (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004 Red Deer Advocate
Author: Canadian Press


EDMONTON - Usually, says Don Dickson of the Calgary Real Estate
Board, only the Christmas lunch is so well-attended.

But last month, 526 real estate agents showed up at one of the board's
seminars. The topic?

Marijuana grow-ops.

''It was pretty amazing,'' says Dickson, president of the board.
''It's obviously a topic of great concern.''

Real estate agents aren't the only ones alarmed by the increasing
number of quiet, suburban homes being used to grow lucrative crops of
high-quality marijuana.

No longer solely the concern of law enforcement, the rapid spread of
such grow-ops is changing the way agencies from insurers to
municipalities do business.

''What originally started as a B.C. problem has spread Canada-wide,''
said Dave Way, standards and practices co-ordinator for the Insurance
Bureau of Canada.

It's becoming a familiar sequence from coast to coast, says Const.
Richard Baylin, RCMP national co-ordinator for marijuana grow-ops: the
empty house on the nice suburban street, the quiet new neighbours, the
cop cars, the TV crews.

Then it's back to the empty home - this time full of toxic mould from
high humidity, its foundation chipped away to get at power lines, its
drywall damp and crumbling.

A March RCMP report estimates the number of Ontario grow-ops grew 250
per cent between 2000 and 2002, a year in which there may have been up
to 15,000 of them active in the province.

A little over a year ago, seven homes on the same upscale Calgary
suburban street were busted. Edmonton has increased the number of
police officers working on grow-ops to six from four.

Real estate agents, who may unwittingly sell a former grow-op or sell
to someone wanting to build one, may have the most at stake. ''A
realtor is the one stuck in the middle,'' says Bob Linney of the Real
Estate Association of Canada.

Agents are obliged to disclose anything that may affect the integrity
of the house, he says. But sellers may not tell their agent
everything. As well, a house's grow-op history may be several buyers
in the past.

And telling a buyer his or her prospective home used to be a grow-op
may be slanderous unless a criminal conviction was actually obtained.

''The realtor walks a very fine line,'' Linney says.

The national association now publishes a 24-page book on how to
recognize a grow-op house, or spot a possible customer who plans to
build one.

''If someone's more interested in the basement than the kitchen, that
could be the first sign,'' says Linney, who has distributed 50,000
copies of the book.

Most Canadian insurers now put specific riders in their homeowner
policies that absolve them of any liability if a property has been
used as a grow-op, says May.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin