CITY'S WAR ON WEED
The City of Abbotsford is looking to smoke-out pot cultivators as part
of a pledge to help police crack down on marijuana grow-ops.
Abbotsford Police Chief Constable Ian Mackenzie told city council
yesterday he is giving his support to the National Co-ordinating
Committee Report on Marijuana Grow Operations.
The report addresses issues raised by Ed Keyes, president of the
Canadian Association of Police Boards, which suggest how local
governments can assist in the march against marijuana.
But while approving the report, councillors also used the discussions
to hammer home their stance on the pot issue.
Simon Gibson said the drug message coming from Ottawa is "entirely
different" to that being pressed by city hall. He also said the
Liberal party has a "laissez-faire" attitude to marijuana grow operations.
Ed Fast agreed.
"We have a justice system that's supposed to protect us but many
citizens feel that our justice system no longer does that."
As a result, Fast suggested the city take matters into its own
"We need to make it as non-profitable as possible for criminal
enterprises to work here," he said.
Whether or not people agree with the "bigger picture" of prohibiting
marijuana, Mackenzie said no one wants a grow-op in their
"Certainly the message we are getting from citizens is that this in a
large concern in Abbotsford," he said.
Gibson asked for an approximate cost as to how much grow-ops cost
Abbotsford taxpayers each year. Mackenzie was unable to answer, but
did point out that eight officers are assigned to the force's drug
squad, and the "vast majority" of their work is grow-op related.
Averaging out at $125,000 for each officer per year, plus the time
other Abbotsford police staff spend addressing the issue, Mackenzie
concluded that it is a "significant cost."
Mackenzie said the Controlled Substance Bylaw, which allows Abbotsford
Police to charge for dismantling grow-ops, is "beneficial."
However, he believes city bylaws could go further, and suggested the
introduction of a bylaw targeting people and businesses "obviously
selling" drug paraphernalia. Overall, Mackenzie encouraged the city to
do as much as possible to assist Abbotsford's police force.
"That's one area we should look at . . . the complexities of enforcing
the law are very time consuming," he said.
Lynne Harris asked Mackenzie whether Abbotsford Police had "a little
better handle" on grow-ops in the city.
said the force was making "some progress," increasing
marijuana busts over the past year by 44 per cent. However, he
admitted the force was having to work from the bottom to the top.
"We are yet to tackle the higher levels of organized crime behind
these grow-ops," Mackenzie said. "At the moment, we are attacking the
symptoms rather than the cause."
Abbotsford Mayor Mary Reeves said that, in terms of organized crime,
"if it wasn't marijuana then it would be something else. "Legalizing
marijuana will not make the organized crime element go away," she added.
George Peary addressed a number of complaints from residents who said
the police "did nothing" when they called-in a grow-op in their
Mackenzie said it can take time for police to respond, pointing out
that officers first have to check out the location and then collect
enough evidence, to be submitted to a justice of the peace, that
provides "reasonable grounds" for a search warrant.
Mackenzie says it then takes "five or six officers" to block off roads
and execute the marijuana bust.