HYDROPONIC STORE OWNERS SHOULD HELP US: POLICE
Many Customers Grow Vegetables: Shop Owner
Hydroponic stores should help police track down marijuana grow operations, a York Regional Police drug squad officer says.
If indoor growing supply shops tracked customer purchases and informed police of suspicious buys, it would make stopping large-scale marijuana operations easier, Det. Don Cardwell said.
"We just want them to co-operate with us," he said.
But just because a store sells hydroponics and indoor growing equipment, it doesn't mean it's supplying marijuana operations, Wendy Herbert of Markham Hydroponics said.
"A lot of our customers are vegetable growers concerned about pesticides and preservatives and those that want to grow their own vegetables year-round," Ms Herbert said. "They have jobs, they don't have time to set up massive marijuana grow operations or get involved with organized crime and we don't want to be involved in anything illegal either."
But police say hydroponics equipment stores help marijuana growers set up their operations.
Some of them advertise during pot friendly radio shows and, although they won't admit to police or the press, many of them will tell trusted customers all they need to know about growing weed indoors, Det. Cardwell said.
"Who is going to purchase all that expensive equipment just to grow tomatoes?" he asked.
"It just doesn't make sense. The tomatoes aren't worth the cost of electricity to run those lights. We know what they're up to."
Hydroponics is actually a soil-free system using nutrients and water to grow plants under lights indoors. While most marijuana grow operations use the same lighting systems, they use soil, not hydroponics.
Markham Hydroponics won't serve customers who admit they want to set up an illegal marijuana grow, Ms Herbert said. But they don't pry into their customers private business, either.
"We don't ask them what they are going to grow," Ms Herbert said. "It's not our business. If they say they want to grow marijuana, we won't give them the advice they need, but I think most large-scale grow operations are buying wholesale, not through stores like us."
The Home Depot sells high powered full spectrum lights, soil and a lot of the products marijuana growers need.
But they will not track purchases or inform police if they suspect someone is growing pot.
"If we are asked by police to co-operate with an investigation, we will,"
public relations manager Nick Cowling said. "Tracking fertilizer and light purchases and giving that information to police has some serious privacy issue implications. Also, we're not here to judge what people are doing with our products."
There are some hydroponics suppliers who do appeal to pot growers, Ms Herbert admits, but not Markham Hydroponics, which looks like a typical garden supply shop.
It doesn't sell marijuana seeds and has no hidden agenda, Ms Herbert said.
"We're trying to get away from that negative image," she said. "It gives us a dirty name."