DRUG BARONS BUY GROW-OP GEAR FROM GOVERNMENT
Equipment Seized, Resold To Growers
Enterprising drug barons have found an unusual supplier in their hunt
for bargains on equipment needed to grow high-grade marijuana: the
Hundreds of pieces of second-hand equipment used to convert an
unassuming industrial space into a $1.1-million illicit marijuana grow
lab were sold to accused drug traffickers through the Department of
Public Works -- after it was earlier seized by police when other grow
labs were shut down, York Region's police chief says.
"I find it absolutely appalling," said Chief Armand La Barge.
When investigators with York's Drugs and Vice Enforcement Unit raided
a business unit in Stouffville, north of Toronto, this August, they
found 1,116 marijuana plants and two men hiding, police say. The lush,
green plants were being nursed by a sophisticated network of
generators, heating, lighting and ventilation equipment.
On almost all of the gear, officers found familiar markings -- police
incident numbers from their own force and other police forces in Ontario.
Puzzled officers traced the equipment to previous grow operation
busts, two in York region in 1998 and 1999 and others from 2002 near
Oakville, Ont., and in London, Ont., police said.
The items had been turned over to the Department of Public Works
through the Seized Property Management Directorate, the federal agency
responsible for disposing of property confiscated by police and the
"We obviously have some very bold and resourceful criminals here who
are either buying them directly or indirectly at bargain basement
prices and putting them back into use in yet another marijuana grow
operation," Chief La Barge said.
"They are basically selling ready-made, tailor-made marijuana grow
operations, the types of things criminals would be looking for."
Although there has been talk among drug investigators across Canada of
seized equipment being recycled, this is believed to be the first hard
evidence of reuse of criminal equipment that police thought they had
taken out of circulation by turning it over to Public Works.
Chief La Barge is demanding that Scott Brison, Minister of Public
Works, change the department's
policy and destroy drug lab equipment.
Mr. Brison was not available for comment yesterday.
Jack Corwin, spokesman for the Seized Property Management Directorate,
said his agency was not aware of York's concerns until contacted by
the National Post.
"We are very interested in following up with the police force, and we
will check this out very thoroughly," Mr. Corwin said.
The agency takes the most specialized hydroponic equipment and either
donates it to a legitimate user -- such as a botanical garden or
institution -- or destroys it, he said. The other stuff, such as
generators and fans that have other commercial uses, are sold through
private auction houses and liquidators.
"It certainly is not our policy to sell ready-made grow ops," Mr.
In a letter to Mr. Brison on Tuesday, Chief La Barge says: "It is very
disheartening to our officers, and to me personally, that despite our
hard work, this type of equipment is finding its way back into the
hands of criminals. I am publicly urging you to take immediate action
on this significant issue."