Lake Country residences part of pot sweep

Homeowner dinged with $200,000 bill to repair home used as grow-op.

  • Apr. 9, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The Kelowna RCMP Green Team targeted illegal marihuana grow operations in the Central Okanagan earlier this year with some astonishing results.

Over a four week period, the Kelowna RCMP Drug Section, Special Enforcement Teams, target teams, property crime units and general duty members created what is affectionately called the Green Team in order to target illegal marihuana grow operations.

The Marihuana Grow Initiative (MGI) is the RCMP’s national strategy to combat marihuana grow operations (MGOs) and the organized crime groups running them in all corners of the country.

The strategy represents the RCMP’s renewed commitment to fight marihuana production controlled by organized crime groups and serves to inform the Canadian public about the consequences, inherent hazards and destructive impacts these activities and criminal groups have on their communities.

The MGI was developed in collaboration with subject matter experts from across the country by looking at current and planned local, provincial and federal initiatives that address illicit MGOs.

Based on three key components: Awareness, Deterrence and Enforcement; this plan outlines how the RCMP will work with partners, organizations and community members to reduce the presence of illegal MGOs across Canada.

The MGI is aligned with the National Anti-Drug Strategy. It will act as a strategic roadmap for the RCMP’s Coordinated Marihuana Enforcement Teams (CMETs), the specialized units that dismantle and investigate these operations as well as detachment personnel who are increasingly involved in marihuana grow investigations.

Focusing mainly within the City of Kelowna, and acting on various tips, the Green Team was able to generate a number of investigations where sufficient grounds existed in order to obtain search warrants.

In all, the team executed 16 separate search warrants on the houses and outbuildings of residential properties in Kelowna and Lake Country, as well as the Ellison and Joe Riche areas of the Regional District of the Central Okanagan.

Of the 16 search warrants executed, seven marihuana grow operations had Personal-Use Production Licences but only one was found to be growing within their prescribed limit.

A number of medical marihuana grow operations, including some that were not searched, were found to be interconnected by an intricate web of personal associations and residential addresses.

Police seized 10,063 plants, approximately 100 lbs of dried marihuana bud, over 14 grams of heroin, six grams of crack cocaine, Outlaw Motorcycle Gang paraphernalia, firearms, cash, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in grow equipment and offence-related property.

“This concentrated enforcement action will have a significant impact upon the safety of our communities here in the Kelowna area and beyond” said Inspector Rick Flewelling, acting officer in charge of the Kelowna Detachment. “Wherever they exist, there’s an increase in criminal activity and a greater chance of fire, explosions and violence on top of the economic costs and other health and safety risks.”

One homeowner found out the hard way about some of those economic costs. He hadn’t inspected his rental property during its current tenancy and is now faced with an estimated $200,000 in repairs before the residence can even be occupied, let alone sold. A red “Do Not Occupy” sign has been placed on the door until it can pass a number of inspections, along with all of the other illegal grow operations police disrupted.

The investigations are ongoing and charges have not yet been laid in all cases.