HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html B.C. Grow-Op Tips Have Slowed, RCMP Report Says
Pubdate: Mon, 14 Jul 2008
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2008 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Robert Matas
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Emery, Marc)


VANCOUVER -- British Columbia's reputation as the cannabis capital of 
North America may be quickly fading. Tips and calls to police from 
the public about marijuana growing operations have declined 
significantly since mid-2003, according to an RCMP report compiled in 
response to a request from The Globe and Mail.

Marc Emery, Canada's so-called Prince of Pot, was not surprised.

"We're seeing a slight reduction in what is coming out of the Lower 
Mainland," Mr. Emery said yesterday in an interview, referring to the 
Greater Vancouver to Chilliwack corridor.

B.C.'s marijuana crop has been estimated to be worth as much as 
$6-billion, although no official statistics have ever been compiled. 
Mr. Emery, a highly successful marijuana seed vendor and outspoken 
advocate for legalization of the drug, currently faces a bid to have 
him extradited to the U.S. on charges of selling seeds on the 
Internet and sending them through the U.S. mail.

Mr. Emery identified three factors leading to the recent drop in 
grow-ops in B.C.: effective police enforcement has increased the 
risks; a strong Canadian dollar has made exports less profitable; and 
a downturn in the U.S. economy has led to many Americans trying their 
hands as suppliers.

Many people have started growing marijuana crops in U.S. National 
Forests throughout the western states, Mr. Emery said. Also, 
homeowners hurt by the mortgage crisis and laid-off workers desperate 
to keep their homes are converting a basement or spare room into 
something that can make them money. In many instances, they are 
turning to growing marijuana, he said.

A homeowner with only two high-intensity grow-lights can probably 
earn as much as $20,000 a year with minimal risk, Mr. Emery said. "It 
certainly is enough to tide people over, no problem, and two lights 
are not going to get you into trouble either. So it is a nice, 
modest-size grow [operation] that you can probably get away with."

Statistics compiled by the RCMP in response to a request from The 
Globe and Mail show that the RCMP "E" division, which covers most of 
B.C., received 44,211 calls and tips reporting grow-ops from January, 
1998, to December, 2007. About half of the calls came to RCMP 
detachments in the Lower Mainland.

The number of calls to RCMP detachments across the province peaked in 
September, 2003, at 615. By December, 2007, the RCMP received only 
207 calls, the same number as in June, 1998.

Staff Sergeant Dave Goddard of the Greater Vancouver RCMP drug 
section was hesitant to confirm that the number of marijuana growing 
operations in B.C. had actually dropped. The statistics only show 
that reports to police have decreased, he said.

Public attention to marijuana growing operations may have been 
diverted. Synthetic chemical labs that produce drugs such as ecstasy 
attract more attention, he said.

Police resources that were previously dedicated to investigating 
marijuana growing operations have been shifted to other areas, Staff 
Sgt. Goddard also said. The RCMP drug section for Greater Vancouver, 
which once employed more than 100 people, now has around 60.

Police continue to work hard to dismantle the marijuana growing 
operations, despite the reduced number of investigators, he also 
said. Even with fewer calls and tips coming in, "we probably get more 
calls than we can handle," Staff Sgt. Goddard said, adding that he 
did not anticipate a decline in marijuana growing operations.

Vancouver mayoral contender Gregor Robertson said yesterday a 
regional police force across Greater Vancouver would be more 
effective in responding to marijuana growing operations and related 
crime. The city of Vancouver has its own police force, although 
several other neighbouring municipalities such as Surrey and Burnaby 
rely on the RCMP.

Mr. Robertson also said he would like to see the federal government 
legalize and tax marijuana.

However until the law is changed, Vancouver police should have more 
resources to "go after the grow-ops," he said. "There does need to be 
a real crackdown on grow ops and organized crime," Mr. Robertson 
said, "and police need resources and better co-ordination to do that."

The police have not been given the staffing they have asked for and 
require to do the job, he said. "Even though numbers are trending 
downward on grow-ops, they [the police] still clearly state they are 
not keeping up, they cannot serve the number of calls they get," Mr. 
Robertson said.

Vancouver city councillor Peter Ladner, who is also running for 
mayor, was not available for comment yesterday.
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