Growers had federal medical marijuana licences, but were allegedly producing more pot than allowed
RCMP drug investigators have arrested three men and seized a helicopter after raiding a Maple Ridge property growing almost seven times more pot than its two medical marijuana licences permitted.
The Federal Drug Enforcement Branch executed a search warrant at the property in the 26000-block of 112th Avenue on May 26, and found 1,490 plants instead of the 220 permitted by two licences provided by Health Canada to grow medical pot.
Police arrested two suspects inside the barn where the pot was being cultivated. And police seized an R44 helicopter, two pickup trucks and three marijuana-growing labs that were not yet in use.
"During this investigation it became very clear to police that marijuana from this licensed operation was being sold in the Lower Mainland. This investigation is ongoing and police anticipate more arrests," Const. Michael McLaughlin said.
None of the three men has yet been charged. McLaughlin would not name them, but did say all three were in their mid-30s and live in the Lower Mainland.
"One of the men arrested was named on the licence as a designated grower," he said. "He does not have a criminal record, but is known to police. The others were not on the licence, but are known to police."
McLaughlin said details of the RCMP's investigation have been passed on to Health Canada.
The elaborate Maple Ridge operation included surveillance cameras and motion detectors. The property featured a house, a large grow barn and several trailers. Police across B.C. have complained in recent weeks that medical-marijuana licences are being abused by gangs and organized crime.
Last month, RCMP Supt. Brian Cantera told The Vancouver Sun that police have encountered people with criminal records for trafficking somehow managing to get licences. And, he said, many licence holders are growing far beyond their permitted quantity.
"What we are seeing, and the intelligence we are receiving, is that largely medicinal marijuana grow-ops today are operating solely under the guise of the licence to protect their criminal activity," Cantera said.
Municipal officials also are concerned about the impact of medical-marijuana grow-ops on neighbourhoods, particularly the fire hazard that comes from uninspected wiring.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has led a motion that will go before the Canadian Federation of Municipalities this weekend, demanding Health Canada force medical-marijuana applicants to also get a municipal permit to "demonstrate that the proposed location for the growing operation is in compliance with all local bylaws and all electrical, fire, health, building and safety regulations."
The motion was passed unanimously Thursday at the Big City Mayors' Caucus, allowing it to be brought before the general membership at the annual meeting now going on in Halifax. The background document presented by Watts noted that B.C. has the "highest authorization level in Canada" for medical-marijuana licences.
"Local governments have no knowledge of the location of such marijuana-growing operations to ensure that appropriate permits are issued and inspections conducted so that the buildings/sites containing medical-marijuana grow operations meet all necessary building, fire and electrical safety regulations and that they do not create a nuisance to others," the document states.
BY KIM BOLAN,
JUNE 4, 2011
RCMP arrest three men, seize helicopter in drug raid