Residents of Chatham-Kent may be in a lockdown, but local large-scale pot growers are in lock up.
Following a $7.3 million seizure of more than 7,300 plants at a greenhouse facility on Maynard Line last September, Chatham-Kent police (CKPS) have in the past two weeks crashed the party at three other large-scale grow operations in the area.
On Jan. 8, members of the CKPS Intelligence Unit executed a search warrant at a property on Richmond Street in Chatham. Officers seized more than 9,000 illegal plants, with an approximate potential street value of $9 million, along with a large amount of Canadian cash.
That same day, C-K emergency crews responded to a fire at a building on Grand Avenue East in Chatham. When the fire was extinguished, police say it was apparent that the property was being used as an illegal grow operation.
Police returned with a warrant and seized 489 illegal plants being seized with a total potential street value of $489,000.
A week later, the Intelligence Unit was at it again, hitting a property on Richmond Street in Chatham. There, the officers scooped up nearly 8,600 marijuana plants, with a potential street value of $8.6 million.
Between the September and January busts, CKPS officers have seized more than 25,000 pot plants from four locations, valued potentially at a combined $25.5 million.
No local people face charges in connection with these operations.
A 48-year-old London man faces charges in connection with the Maynard Line greenhouse grow op, for cultivating and possession of cannabis for the purposes of selling, contrary to the Cannabis Act.
In the two busts on Jan. 8, a 34-year-old Markham man and a 62-year-old Stouffville man were arrested inside the Richmond Street building and face similar cultivation and possession charges. A summons has been issued for a a 58-year-old Markham mand for that property, as well as a 62-year-old Kitchener women in connection with the Grand Avenue East property, also for cultivation and possession for the purpose of selling.
In regard to the Jan. 15 seizure, a 46-year-old Markham man, a 26-year-old Scarborough man, 24-year-old Oshawa man, 52-year-old Markham woman and 26-year-old North York man were all located hiding inside the building, police say. They were arrested and charged with cultivating and possession of cannabis for the purposes of selling.
“This past year, a significant amount of cannabis associated to illegal drug operations has been found in Chatham-Kent,” says Chief Gary Conn in a media release. “These operations will not be tolerated here in our community as we know their actions may lead to violent behaviour, property crimes and organized crime. Our officers, have and will continue to investigate reports of illegal drug activity to ensure the safety of everyone here in our community.”
Police say the operators of grow ops such as these are trying to side step Health Canada regulations by diverting cannabis authorized to be grown for a personal medical purpose to the illegal market.
The goal of locating and dismantling these illegal production sites, police say, is to safeguard our community from the dangers that inherently come with the illegal cannabis industry, which can include violent criminal activity, human trafficking and public health concerns due to a lack of regulatory oversight in the illicit market.