HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html RCMP Weeding Out BC Pot Growers
Pubdate: Saturday, June 5, 1999
Source: Calgary Herald (Canada)
Author: Brock Ketcham


It was just after daybreak, Dec.11, 1998 

Ten heavily armed RCMP officers stormed a house on a small acreage outside
the remote village of Winlaw in the West Kootenanys, about 50 kilometres
northwest of Nelson.

An informant had told the RCMP they might find something more than tools in
a ramshackle workshop by the house. But all they found was a workbench.

Then a tiny hole in the wall aroused a Mountie's curiosity, and he poked an
object inside.

A hydraulic lift raised the bench from the floor, exposing an elevator. The
Mountie and fellow officers hopped aboard and soon found themselves in a
three-room underground structure filled with a crop of hydroponically grown

`It was definitely not a ma-and-pa type of operation,' recalls Nelson RCMP
Const. Carol Kurbel.

The raid is part of a wave of police actions in recent month to crush the
marijuana culture in the Kootenay region.

The farmer awaits trial on a pot cultivation charge. Other growers
throughout the West and East Kootenays - as well as the remainder of
British Columbia - feel under siege by RCMP who have put the province's
legion of pot growers at the top of their drug-enforcement priorities.

Mounties have 146 investigations under way in the Kootenay region alone,
says Nelson RCMP Const. Tom Clark.

And 1,285 people in B.C. were charged with cultivation of marijuana in 1997
- - the most recent year for which RCMP statistics are available - compare
with 805 in 1996.

The cultivation of `B.C.Bud', renowned among pot users worldwide for its
potency, has been largely the domain of 1960s-era hippies, draft dodgers
and other laid-back folk who grew the illegal substance with little risk of
police scrutiny or stiff penalties  in court.

But times are changing, says Sgt. Chuck Doucette, head of the B.C. drug
awareness section in Vancouver.

Organized criminals ranging from Hell's Angels to ethnic gang members
realized they could make huge profits with little legal risk.

Three years ago, the RCMP decided to shift much of their drug investigation
resources from heroin and cocaine traffickers - and the results have been
becoming apparent, Doucette says.

Neighbours are encouraged through newspaper ads to report pot growers to
police.  `Everybody who's growing dope is starting to look over their
shoulders now,' says Clark, the RCMP's drug expert for the West
Kootenay-Boundary region. `That's what we want.'

Growers in Grand Forks, a community in the Boundary - a fertile, semi-arid
region between the Kootenays and the Okanagan along the U.S. border - told
the Herald that paranoia is taking hold in the decades-old industry.

In Grand Forks,  14 growers have been arrested in the past month, says Paul
Dimotoff, a 51-year-old man who has grown pot in this little city for 28
years.  `It's a real apprehensive mood,' says Dimotoff.'You're looking at
everybody now.'

Dimotoff says growers are honest, peaceful people who do not deserve to be
treated like gangsters. `This vendetta by the RCMP is absolutely absurd,'
he says. `They are bullies with badges.'

Al Demosky, 65, a musician and dabbler in small business who has lived here
for more than half a century, says growers may have become visible to the
RCMP through their own greed.

`I've got only two plants,' Demosky says. `They (RCMP) can get them, but
first they've got to find them.'

`I don't sell it - it's only for my own use...and my friends.'

The RCMP's Doucette says big league criminals have established a strong
presence in pot cultivation and are organizing crops `almost like
franchises,' telling underlings what equipment to use and how to care for
the plants.

`They know somebody is growing - they move in,' Doucette says. `It's whoa -
you're now growing for me.' `

Meanwhile, the stepped up enforcement is threatening availability of B.C.'s
potent pot product for the Universal Compassion Club (UCC), a new Calgary
group that provides  pot to seriously ill people, says pot crusader and
club founder Grant Krieger.

Dimitoff agrees, `It will start to have an impact on compassion clubs,'
says the grower, who cultivates cannabis for personal use and for medicinal
clubs. `It already has.'

Krieger,44, who returned to Calgary two weeks ago from Grand Forks, where
he spent three days lining up suppliers for UCC, says `they're taking away
an industry that's just getting ready to start - they're trying to shut it

Last Monday thieves broke into a house UCC is renting and stole the club's
stash of cannabis plants and ready-to-smoke pot, worth about $8,000.

But Krieger, who has multiple sclerosis, remains determined to have the
club up and running by mid-June. The club has 25 members and Krieger
supplies them with pot from indoor growers in Calgary. He is travelling
across Canada to establish contact with other suppliers.

Doucette, says once the RCMP realized pot cultivation in B.C. was no longer
the exclusive domain of `mom and pop operators and hippies,' they began
creating `Green Teams' - squads that specialize in shutting down growers.

The RCMP also reassigned individual Mounties in detachments too small for
such teams to work on cultivation cases full-time.

Doucette, says the lenient fines or suspended sentences once handed down by
the courts made pot cultivation a congenial criminal enterprise. But with
growers showing up in court by the hundreds, judges are handing out stiffer
sentences, he says.

Clark says that in one recent case in Nakusp, a judge fined the grower
$7,500. Fines of the magnitude are five times the amount levied in B.C.
only a few years ago, he says.

Doucette,scoffs at a belief among  B.C. growers that U.S. Drug Enforcement
Agency funding is behind the RCMP crackdown.

`Boy - I wish,' he said.

While RCMP applaud Ottawa's decision to create a safe supply of pot for
medical reasons, they have no sympathy for compassion clubs. `We take a
firm stance that we disagree with medicinal pot because it is illegal,'
Doucette says.

But Dimotoff says no amount of law enforcement will make him quit.

`This vocation I have chosen harms no one,' he says. `I am livid that so
much time is spent locating and harassing the medicine growers.

`I talk daily to growers who echo my sentiments. We are all fed up. My
friends wish to remain safely hidden. I an too old to care about that, and
fear neither jail nor coffin.'

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