Enniskillen hopes to nip pot grow ops in the bud

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Alex Kurial
Local Journalism Initiative

Enniskillen Deputy Mayor Judy Krall is worried people will take advantage of federal cannabis rules to start grow ops in their homes.
Krall attended a cannabis panel discussion hosted by the Town of East Gwillimbury at the end of July.
The OPP and York Regional Police uncovered some of the problems with people growing too much cannabis in their homes.
By law a person is allowed to grow four cannabis plants for their own personal use.
This number can be increased if someone is approved to grow cannabis for their own medical use. But this limit is often ignored and exceeded.
East Gwillimbury has noticed several instances of this lately on town properties.
“On the edge of residential areas where the agricultural area begins is where these are setting up shop,” says Krall.
“They’re springing up, there’s no building permits for them. They’re running into odour problems, light problems, ventilation, types of buildings that are being built, water usage.
“They [authorities] have no idea where they are. People are frustrated that these are showing up in their backyards.”
East Gwillimbury determined that many of these grow ops were being purchased by people from the Greater Toronto Area. They’re drawn by cheaper housing prices and more secluded geography.
OPP Det. Inspec. Jeff Walker, a specialist in cannabis crime, says these small scale grow ops are often part of larger criminal organizations and gangs.
Walker says that cannabis grow ops are frequently linked with the distribution of harder drugs like methamphetamines.
Firearms are a common discovery at these locations as well.
“They’re growing prescriptions and then they’re growing more. So the black market’s still alive,” says Krall.
Walker says it’s hard to detect these grow ops.
Many times police rely on tips to Crime Stoppers or from public works employees who notice something strange with a house.
Even when police learn about a grow up they say they don’t have the funding or resources to shut them all down.
While the growing trend worries Krall, Councillor Wally Van Dun says this has been a problem for many decades.
“It’s a crime that’s been going on for many years, and it goes back to the 70s and 80s and 90s,” says Van Dun noting weed could often be spotted in local fields.
“The OPP – they know this is going on, they know where it’s going on – but they don’t do anything about it because their hands are tied with cash funding. But it’s also so small.”
“They could go in and shut it down tomorrow, and it will go and move six miles down the road.”
Krall says she doesn’t think the problem has arrived in Enniskillen yet. She’s hoping to raise awareness of the grow ops before this becomes the case.
“I think we continue to keep an eye on it.”
“It’s an issue in Norfolk, it’s an issue obviously in East Gwillimbury. We know it’s an issue in Leamington. So we know that they’re springing up. It’s just getting ahead of it,” Krall says.
“There’s so many unknowns with this, and we’re all learning as we’re going along.”