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'b.c. Bud' Growers Share Skills Globally

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A different kind of brain drain is underway in B.C. as pot growers share their billions of dollars worth of skills with a worldwide audience.

"We think they're exporting their expertise," said Supt. Paul Nadeau, director of the RCMP's national drug branch. "We've heard of it on an international scale."

Nadeau says he's in regular contact with law-enforcement counterparts in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and all report busting grow-ops with links to organized crime groups operating in B.C.

Ironically, it's enhanced border security in the post-9/11 U.S. that is driving the information-sharing and possibly adding an unintended front to America's "war on drugs."

Why cross the border from Canada with a load of high-grade marijuana when you can find people willing and schooled in how to grow it for you in the U.S.? That may be the scenario playing out in a recent Washington state bust.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officers and police in King County took down a large grow-op ring three weeks ago, arresting seven people and seizing an estimated $5 million US of marijuana ( 4,991 plants ) and more than $250,000 in cash.

"Detectives believe all those houses raided are part of a large, criminal organization with connections to British Columbia," said Sgt. John Urquhart of the King County sheriffs department.

"This is basically the 'B.C. bud' transplanted to Washington," Urquhart said. "This is not the first time."

Urquhart was reluctant to expand on the nature of the connections and the organization involved.

But when Nadeau was asked who in B.C. is exporting their skills, his answer was simple: "Everybody."

"Everybody ( organized crime groups ) is into it ( marijuana production ) in B.C. There's a lot of money to be made," he said.

A study released by the Fraser Institute in 2006 pegged the retail value of marijuana grown in B.C. at $7 billion and estimated there are at least 17,500 grow-ops in the province.

Adam Otte, a DEA special agent, noted in Seattle District Court documents that the seven Vietnamese-American suspects arrested in Washington were seen at multiple grow-ops. "I believe they were an organized crime group of marijuana growers who helped tend their associate's grows," Otte stated.

"It comes down to the business of huge profits," said Darryl Plecas, University College of the Fraser Valley criminology professor and author of the 2002 study Marihuana Operations in British Columbia. "What's happening there ( in Washington State ) is characteristic of organized crime in general. They go wherever there's an opportunity."

Nor should it be surprising, says Julian Sher, award-winning author of The Road to Hell: How Biker Gangs Conquered Canada.

Sher's book documents how a Hells Angel member acquired a recipe for the drug speed in a California jail, then promptly exported that recipe to colleagues in Australia for production.

"Technology, like drugs and money, flows very quickly in the organized crime world," said Sher.

Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007 The Edmonton Journal
Contact: letters@thejournal.canwest.com
Website: http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/
 
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