HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html No Shortage Of Illegal Pot Groomers
Pubdate: Sun, 05 Oct 2008
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Elianna Lev, Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Tax-Free Income Also Often Comes With Free Food, Pot, And Possibly 
Criminal Charges

VANCOUVER - There's green to be made clipping and trimming the green 
leaves in British Columbia's marijuana industry.

The prospect of tax-free income is driving some people into temporary 
work as "clippers" for indoor and outdoor grow operations.

It's not only against the law, it's also considered the most 
labour-intensive part of the harvesting process. But there isn't a 
shortage of people willing to do the work.

Pot clippers - also known as trimmers - groom marijuana plants that 
have been harvested from fields or indoor grow operations. The 
workers pare down the buds from the plants to make them presentable for sale.

A demand for workers throughout the province starts at the beginning 
of fall, when most outdoor crops are ready to be harvested.

Payment is either on an hourly basis, starting around $10 an hour, or 
by weight, according to individuals who have worked in the business 
but did not want to be identified. Meals are often provided and 
clippers are usually allowed to keep some of the product for personal use.

The job is usually arranged through a drug dealer or someone close to 
the person who runs the operation. Since the sale of marijuana is 
illegal, trust plays a big role in scouting potential employees, 
which is why some people interviewed did not want their identities revealed.

One woman said she found out about the job through a friend, who 
lives in a remote part of the province. She spent two weeks earning 
the trust of the people who ran the outdoor grow op before being offered a job.

The woman never saw the crops. Instead, she was taken to a sheltered 
space, which she described as "cosy," where large amounts of dried 
plants were laid out.

She and several others spent up to 14 hours a day trimming buds off 
plants using special gardening scissors.

"By that point I was falling off my chair," she said of the long hours.

Although the work was repetitive and labour-intensive, the woman said 
she trimmed as much as she could because she was getting paid by the 
ounce. She could make up to $300 in cash for a single day's work.

"My relationship with cash was shifting, it was just paper," she 
said. "I was stuffing it into my pocket, I was like, 'This is demented.' "

The woman said she looks back on the experience favourably and would 
do it again in the future. Although there were pitfalls - along with 
the long hours, she also started feeling sick from breathing in dust 
in the close quarters - she made a lot off money in four weeks.

Never in her month as a clipper did the woman feel unsafe or nervous. 
She said the remote location gave her comfort, and the people she 
worked with were mostly laid-back and friendly.

Jacob Hunter, who works for the B.C. Marijuana Party, said he worked 
as a clipper while a student in Prince George. He had a hard time 
finding summer work in the city and was complaining to his pot dealer 
about his student loans when he was offered a job.

At $10 an hour, it may not have seemed that lucrative. But putting in 
long days paid off.

"They pay overtime, even though it was black market," he said. "You'd 
still get time-and-a-half for eight hours and double time for 12."

Hunter said he worked alongside several other people in someone's 
basement. He said while the work was monotonous, he enjoyed getting a 
"contact high" from handling large quantities of weed.

Overall, he described it as a decent job.

"They make it very comfortable, you're sitting on a chair, 
comfortably in someone's house," Hunter said. "It's warm, they pass 
around joints a lot and all your meals are paid for."

Both Hunter and the woman said they worked for people who grew weed 
on a medium scale and weren't linked to organized crime. Hunter said 
some growers are "stereotypically old hippies," the mom-and-pops of 
the marijuana industry.

Staff Sgt. Dave Goddard of the RCMP's Vancouver drug unit said 
operations with between 500 and 1,000 plants generally hire extra 
help to clip and monitor the plants. Larger-scale operators often 
have up to seven different grow operations and employ larger staffs, he said.

There's no lack of people willing to take the risk of being 
associated with the drug trade, Goddard said.

"There's an awful lot of unemployed people out there, and this is a 
way that they have of making money on a cash basis that is largely 
undisclosed to the government," he said. "Obviously they aren't being 
taxed on it because they're not receiving a T4 at the end of the 
year, I can guarantee you that."

In 30 years with the Mounties, Goddard said he's busted as many as 
500 grow operations. He said clippers get charged along with everyone 
else involved, usually with possession of marijuana, production of 
marijuana or possession for the purpose of trafficking.



A look at the occupation of marijuana 'clipper':

What: The temporary job involves grooming marijuana plants that have 
been harvested from fields or indoor grow operations.

When: Demand from pot operations starts at the beginning of fall, 
when most outdoor crops are ready to be harvested.

Why: Workers are paid either hourly, starting around $10, or by 
weight. Meals and pot are often provided. Money is tax-free because 
the occupation operates outside the law.

Why not: Police say during a bust, clippers get charged along with 
the masterminds.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom