Chatham-Kent Police in Ontario say they have seized more than $25M worth of cannabis plants from four large scale illicit grow operations in the past six months.
On September 16, 2020 members of the Chatham-Kent Police Services (CKPS) Intelligence Unit executed a search warrant at a Greenhouse facility with over 7,300 unlicensed cannabis plants with an approximate street value of $7.3M. A summons has been issued for a 48-year-old London man for the offences of cultivating and possession of cannabis for the purposes of selling, contrary to the Cannabis Act.
On January 8, 2021 members of the CKPS Intelligence Unit executed a search warrant at a property on Richmond Street in Chatham. Officers seized 9,004 illegal plants, with an approximate street value of $9M, along with a large amount of Canadian cash.
A 34-year-old Markham man and 62-year-old Stouffville man were both arrested inside the building and charged with cultivating and possession of cannabis for the purposes of selling, contrary to the Cannabis Act. They were released pending a future court date of February 11, 2021. A summons has been issued for a 58-year-old Markham man for the same offences.
On January 8, 2021 emergency crews responded to a fire at a building on Grand Avenue East in Chatham. When the fire was extinguished, it was apparent that the property was being used as an illegal grow operation. A warrant was obtained and executed, resulting in 489 illegal plants being seized with a total street value of $489K. A summons has been issued for a 62-year-old Kitchener woman for the offences of cultivating and possession of cannabis for the purposes of selling, contrary to the Cannabis Act.
On January 15, 2021 members of the CKPS Intelligence Unit executed a search warrant at another property on Richmond Street in Chatham. A total of 8,580 illegal plants were seized with a total street value of $8.6M. 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. They were arrested and charged with cultivating and possession of cannabis for the purposes of selling. They were released pending a future court date of February 18, 2021
In total, the Chatham-Kent Police has seized over 25,000 illegal cannabis plants, with a total street value of $25.5M.
Chatham Police say the goal of locating and dismantling these illegal production sites is to safeguard the community from the dangers that inherently come with the illegal cannabis industry, such as violent criminal activity, human trafficking and public health concerns due to a lack of regulatory oversight in the illicit market.
“These sophisticated operations are exploiting the regulations set by Health Canada by diverting cannabis authorized to be grown for a personal medical purpose to the illegal market. By cutting off the illegal supply, we can reduce the criminality that results from these lucrative criminal networks,” notes a police press release.
“To be clear, we are not targeting those who are growing cannabis legally for their own personal use or storefronts who have legally obtained a permit. These are large scale illegal production sites, who pose a negative impact on legitimate local businesses, as the money generated has been linked to funding organized crime,” continues the press release.
“This past year, a significant amount of cannabis associated to illegal drug operations has been found in Chatham-Kent,” says Chief Gary Conn. “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.”
Large scale raids of unlicensed cannabis grows, especially in Ontario, have become frequent in the past year, with millions of dollars in cannabis being seized, often from growers operating under the pretences of a personal or designated medical licence.