HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Growing Flowers, You Say? A Likely Story
Pubdate: Wed, 3 Sep 2008
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2008 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Robert Matas
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)


Neighbours in Tiny Likely, B.C., Had Seen Through Facade of Marijuana
Greenhouses for Years, Residents Say After Massive Police Raid

VANCOUVER -- The village of Likely is a remote community of about 250
people on the edge of the Quesnel Highlands in the foothills of the
Cariboo mountain range, more than an hour away from the closest police
detachment. A city-slicker unfamiliar with the ways of a small town
might assume that it was possible to move into an abandoned house on
one of the village's isolated two-acre lots and no one would be the

Of course, folks in small towns across Canada know that's not true.
They know just how easy it is to find out just about everything about
their neighbours.

Residents of Likely, about 550 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, said
yesterday most people were well aware of the massive indoor marijuana
growing operations in their community long before police announced
this week that nine Vancouver-area residents will appear in court on
Sept. 10 to face charges related to production of marijuana on eight
properties in the village.

The criminal charges stem from raids in late 2007 in which police
found 33,319 marijuana plants in Likely. Last month, six people were
arrested after a police raid of a property in Bridge Lake, B.C., about
three hours north of Likely. Police in that raid discovered 15,000
plants in 23 greenhouses, enough to make up to five million marijuana

Likely residents were divided on whether the police raids had made
their community a better place to live. Likely Chamber of Commerce
spokesman Robin Hood said yesterday the grow ops fed an underground
economy and boosted property values in a town hit hard by a slowdown
in logging and mining. "It did not bother me," he said in an interview.

But High Country Inn owner Darlene Biggs, who has three of her eight
grandchildren living in the village, said she was pleased to see the
grow ops closed down. "A lot of us have been complaining for a while
and calling the police," she said.

The village of Likely, named after a prospector called John Likely,
dates back to the Gold Rush days of the 1850s. Almost 700 ounces of
gold were recovered in one week at the peak of production at the
nearby Bullion Pit gold mine, which operated from 1892 to 1942.
Logging replaced mining as the area's main source of employment in the
1950s, but the forestry work disappeared about 15 years ago.

Those who stayed have tried to reinvent the area as a tourist
destination, although the tiny village does not have police, a fire
department, a hospital, a department store or even a bank.

About five years ago, those who were still in Likely watched as people
from Vancouver paid top dollar for abandoned properties. The newcomers
said they were in the business of growing flowers. But after they
hired local residents as carpenters and electricians to renovate the
homes, it quickly became apparent what they really had in mind.

Likely residents readily admit they knew what their new neighbours
were doing. The residents joked about the brownouts in their own homes
at 6:10 p.m. every night, as the lights went on in the grow ops, Mr.
Hood said.

They talked about their new gated communities: The grow ops were the
only properties with gates on their driveways, Ms. Biggs said, adding
that many people in the area never even lock their doors.

During the winter, the grow ops were the only homes in the community
with no snow on their roofs, Ms. Biggs said.

Despite the talk in the community, the grow ops carried on for some
years. RCMP Corporal Marc Menard of the Williams Lake detachment
rejected a suggestion that police should have moved more quickly to
shut them down.

Police searched the marijuana grow ops in Likely in the fall and early
winter of 2007, a few years after residents said they first knew about
the illegal business. The nine men appearing in court in Williams Lake
next week were charged earlier this week.

"A lot of people think, because they call and say there is a grow op
at that location, that that afternoon it will be dismantled. It does
not work that way," Cpl. Menard said in an interview. Information must
be verified and presented in court to obtain a search warrant. Police
also have to compile evidence that persuades a federal prosecutor of
the likelihood of conviction, he said. "It does not happen overnight
and it involves an incredible amount of manpower," he added.

Cpl. Menard said electricians, carpenters and others in the
underground economy who earned some money as a result of the grow ops
may be investigated by Revenue Canada.

"There is a reason we have a system of laws in this country," he said.
"The ones that choose not to follow the laws, they will eventually be
held accountable." 
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