Pot-Growers Busted in 17 Locations

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Jun 24, 2001.

  1. Police arrest 22 in operation
    Source: Toronto Star

    Seventeen indoor marijuana-growing operations in residential neighbourhoods were busted in early morning raids yesterday in Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph and the Toronto area.
    In the raids, police collected elaborate equipment involved in sophisticated indoor pot-growing operations such as floor fans, umbrella-shaped reflectors and high-wattage light bulbs. Ten of the raids took place in K-W, one in Guelph and the rest in Toronto.

    Police are not saying how much marijuana was seized and will not estimate the value of the pot taken from the 17 homes.

    However, Staff Sgt. Dan Anderson, media relations officer for the Waterloo regional police, said some of the "grows'' were bigger than expected.

    "This will be a very substantial amount of product seized today,'' said Anderson, who said police began the raids at 7 a.m.

    The 22 people arrested yesterday are part of the "upper level and in control of this particular organization,'' police said.

    Five of them were women.

    "It's an organized group of people who happen to be of Asian descent,'' Anderson said.

    "You would not go to one of these houses and buy three joints,'' he said.

    Since January, local police have raided 30 homes in Waterloo Region with similar pot operations. Of the 40 people charged, many are of Vietnamese origin.

    Almost 6,000 marijuana plants, valued at nearly $5 million, have been seized, police said.

    Also found was equipment, valued at $302,700, a car worth $5,000, $76,000 in jewelry and $79,433 in cash.

    A news conference will be held Monday at police headquarters to detail what police describe as a six-month sting operation dubbed Project Greenhouse. Names and charges are expected to be released at that time.

    More than 70 police officers from local police, the RCMP, the OPP, Hamilton, Guelph and Peel forces were involved in the undercover work.

    Those arrested are expected to spend the weekend in jail and appear in court early next week.

    Police spent most of the day yesterday going through the houses collecting drug-related equipment.

    By mid-afternoon, police had collected a tractor-trailer full of equipment from a home on Dumfries Avenue in Kitchener.

    The commotion had curious neighbours wondering what was going on.

    On Lewis Crescent, in the Chicopee area of Kitchener, Phyllis Sampey was startled from her sleep at 7:10 a.m.

    She looked out to see police armed with machine-guns raiding the house next door.

    "It was unbelievable,'' said Sampey. "I heard glass breaking and I looked out the window to see the SWAT team with loaded guns on my front lawn. It was scary.''

    Like other residents interviewed by The Record yesterday, Sampey said she had little contact with the neighbours, who had recently moved into the area.

    They didn't speak English well and kept to themselves, she said.

    There were families with children, in some of the houses, while others were empty with people visiting only occasionally, Anderson said.

    In a few of the homes, there were only two or three rooms where people lived and the remainder was used to grow pot, he said.

    Anderson said many of the homes looked like greenhouses.

    The large amounts of electricity needed for the marijuana plants is often disguised by bypassing hydro meters.

    "They use grow lights and do the cultivation in the house,'' he said.

    Anderson said many of the growers locate in middle-class residential neighbourhoods and "try to make it so that the neighbours are unaware of what's going on.''

    At 78 Lewis Cres., furniture was scarce, with only a kitchen table and two chairs and a couch in the living room.

    The glass storm door was shattered and a wooden side door was broken.


    Putting a Price on Pot:


    What do values of seized drugs really mean?

    Police use a combination of experience and educated guesswork to estimate the street value of seized marijuana.

    Critics complain the inexact science allows police to exaggerate high-profile busts to make themselves look better and increase the chances of stiff penalties when cases get to court.

    "You just look at (the dollar estimates) and laugh,'' said Sean Doiron, manager of Shakedown Street, a store that sells marijuana-related paraphernalia in downtown Kitchener. "They always blow them way out of proportion.''

    But Staff Sgt. Dan Anderson of Waterloo regional police said investigators are sensitive to such criticism and intentionally use conservative estimates.


    In the case of marijuana, he said, this is how they arrive at their figures:


    * Plants seized from homegrown operations are broken into two categories: mature and immature.

    * Officers can accurately determine the yield of smokable marijuana from mature plants.

    * For immature plants, they estimate the potential yield at 2.5 ounces per plant.

    * The actual yield from mature plants and the potential yield from immature plants are then added together to determine the total potential weight of smokable marijuana.

    * That number is then multiplied by a street-level price of $10 per gram (enough to make three to seven joints or marijuana cigarettes) to arrive at a total dollar figure.

    Anderson said police lowball their estimates every step of the way. Mature plants, for instance, can yield seven to eight ounces of smokable marijuana, so the 2.5-ounce estimate is quite low.

    Similarly, $10 per gram is likely a bargain in most street circles.

    "We don't want to be in a position to have to defend ourselves for inflating anything,'' said Anderson. "We don't want to be accused of making it look more serious than it is.''

    Doiron agreed the going rate for marijuana in the Kitchener area is actually about $15 a gram.

    But he said estimating the value of huge quantities of seized pot by breaking it into such tiny amounts is inherently misleading.

    "It's correct to a point, but nobody would do it that way,'' said Doiron. "It's just to make it seem like a bigger bust.''

    Like any wholesale product, he said, marijuana has to go through several middlemen who each take a cut of the profit before it ever gets sold in $10 quantities.

    "They want to keep it prohibited, so they take a worst-case scenario,'' said Doiron. "It's a propaganda thing.''

    Anderson, however, said police break large seizures into small amounts because that's how it would eventually get into the hands of most drug users.

    Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
    Published: June 22, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 The Toronto Star
    Contact: lettertoed@thestar.com
    Website: http://www.thestar.com/

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