Fri Nov 24, 9:32 PM ET
TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian police search for marijuana grow operations mushroomed as officers discovered 22 units in a Toronto high rise were being used to cultivate the illegal drug, four times more than expected.
"It was quite shocking to us that there would be (22) in one particular apartment building," Toronto police Det. Sgt. David Malcolm told a news conference on Friday.
Police found over 6,000 marijuana plants worth an estimated street value of over C$6.0 million ($5.31 million) scattered throughout the 22 apartments in the north Toronto building.
Media reports said police were originally alerted to the marijuana operations last April when a fire broke out in one of the units. Malcolm declined to specify what tipped off police.
Armed with search warrants for just five apartments in the 13-storey high rise, police discovered they had just scratched the surface.
"This is a huge public safety issue to other tenants in this building based on the use of electricity, and the threat of fire," Campbell said.
"The damage to some of those units is extensive, not to mention the chemicals being poured down the drain system."
Three men have been charged with various offenses including possession and production of marijuana and police say they expect to make more arrests.
In 2004, police raided an abandoned brewery near the Ontario city of Barrie which had 30,000 marijuana plants in what was called the biggest growing operation in Canadian history.
Police said the operation was the size of a football field, a street value of C$30 million ($26.55 million).