By Julie Whittet
You might be surprised one of Kelowna's top green initiatives means destroying plants. Exactly 10,064 marijuana plants, to be precise, were seized by Kelowna RCMP in a large-scale bust on grow operations in the valley.
Kelowna RCMP were able to land 16 search warrants on residences in February and March this year, as part of Canada's Marijuana Grow Initiative. Also nick-named the “Green Team,” a multiple unit crew of officers, with experts from across the country, were able to uncover an extensive web of grow operations trying to use medical licenses to mask illegal drug production and organized crime.
There were 20 bags of dried marijuana bud on display at this morning's RCMP press conference, a mere sample of the 100 pounds seized.
Constable Kris Clark said only seven of the 16 residences searched had medical licenses, and of those seven licensed growers only one was producing within their prescribed limits. Police found quantities of up to 20 to 30 pounds of the drug in some residences, suggesting production for illegal trafficking.
“You're never going to consume that much in your life,” said Clark, adding that one pound of marijuana is the most an individual would typically consume in a year.
The initiative is meant to increase safety in the community, by raising awareness, deterence and enforcment. Police strongly caution all home owners to regularly inspect their rental suites.
One of the Green Team searches found $200,000 in damage to a rental home. Clark says the owner had no idea his home was housing a grow operation. Damages included walls punctured with ventilation holes and severe mold growth, making the premise unlivable.
Licensed growers also need to recognize the safety risk of producing in their homes.
“Any marijuana grow operation has a safety risk,” Clark says.
In order to obtain search warrants police had to present the court with a six page document detailing sufficient grounds for inspection. The Green Team gathered extensive evidence detailing odors, hydro utility calculations, as well as information from tips and sources.
The initiative reveals how illegal grow operations remain a huge issue for the Okanagan Valley. "We've seen more of an increase in rural areas," Clark says.
It still remains to be seen how RCMP will be able to crack down on operations in the coming years, though Clark says the Green Team initiative “has ripple effects through industry.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)718-0428.