It’s that simple…or simplistic: lots of pot busts produce police propaganda

Re: “Bust of underground Chilliwack bunker yields $3 million worth of marijuana”.

We have impacted the criminals who have been operating this grow-op on a financial level in seizing over $3 million worth of crop, and a large quantity of equipment and supplies from the property,” she said.

Police executed a search warrant at the property Wednesday. They did not say what led them to suspect the location was the site of illegal activity.

Meanwhile, the Abbotsford police department were called to investigate a shots fired just before 5 a.m. Thursday in the 34700-block of Hamon Drive.

Members of the patrol division located several shell casings and found a man attempting to leave the home.

“The male was immediately taken into custody. A search of the home for injured parties, weapons and potential suspects revealed that this home was being used as a marijuana grow operation,” Const. Ian MacDonald said in a release.

No firearm was recovered and no one appeared to have been hurt, he said.

On Vancouver Island, marijuana growers got help with their harvest this year when a team of police agencies, including the Victoria Police Department and the RCMP, moved in and destroyed more than 29,000 plants over the last two weeks.

“We were routinely destroying plants that would produce anywhere from one to three pounds of marijuana,” RCMP Cpl. Darren Lagan said. “At the low end, that’s over fifty thousand pounds of product, which represents a commodity for organized crime groups on Vancouver Island. The sale or trade of that marijuana would result in other dangerous street drugs, and firearms coming into our communities.”

The majority of growing sites were north of the Comox Valley, where crime groups have an advantage due to the remoteness, terrain, and climate, he said. “This is not a harmless or victimless crime. The marijuana being grown in our backcountry will put money and weapons in the pockets of criminals. It’s that simple.”

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Dear editor:

The only thing simple about the complex interrelationship between prohibition, cannabis growing and organized crime is predicting the police response to making “big” arrests. First, they will crow about making an “impact” on the industry. They will stage a press event, complete with what many call “pot porn” – visuals of huge plants or big operations. They will bleat about the “toxic chemicals” (which, in other industries, we call fertilizers and pesticides) and attempt to draw connections between marijuana sales and guns or the sales of other drugs. And, in the meantime, our province’s largest industry will continue on as if nothing has happened.

That because, in the scheme of things, nothing has. Consider this: 700,000 Canadians use cannabis daily. Another 1.3 million enjoy it on a weekly basis. Conservatively estimating that the daily users go through 3 grams a week and the weekly users 1 gram per week means that our domestic doobie consumption is about 6.2 millions grams per week. Using $10 per gram, as police often do, we learn that about $62 million goes up in smoke each and every week. So when police crow about an alleged $3 million bust, keep in mind that they have seized only about 4% of one week’s supply. And that’s just the Canadian market. US statistics released this week demonstrate that their consumption (despite, I might add, much harsher anti-marijuana laws) makes us look like a bunch of wanna-be tokers.

And so, rather than simple, the police viewpoint is more accurately described as simplistic. Yes, the black market trade in cannabis poses societal risks. Those risks are a product of the plant’s illegality. Pollster Angus Reid recently met a cabbie in London who said Vancouver seemed like something out of Al Capone’s days. When alcohol was illegal the black market in that drug caused the very same problems that police today ascribe to cannabis: dangerous production, marketplace violence, gifts of revenue to organized crime. Now that alcohol is produced and sold legally those problems are gone. And cannabis is safer for the user than alcohol by a large margin. That is why the Senate, in its comprehensive and apparently-forgotten 2002 report on cannabis, concluded that the prohibition of the plant causes more harm than its use ever will. Isn’t it time that we stopped handing money to criminals and, instead, put it in the hands of legitimate farmers and businesses?

Kirk Tousaw,
Executive Director
Beyond Prohibition Foundation
142 – 757 W. Hastings, Suite 211
Vancouver BC V6C 1A1