TWO police officers on traffic duty followed their noses to a $135,000
marijuana grow op.

Constables Patricia Lee and Graeme Leblanc, of West Vancouver Police
Department, had been called to deal with complaints of speeding drivers
when they smelled the skunk-like odour of pot production. They traced the
smell to its source and then called out a special investigation team which
set up surveillance and obtained a search warrant. The two officers had
originally dealt with a speeding driver in the 200-block of Stevens Drive
in West Vancouver, when they smelled the marijuana, said Sgt. Bob Fontaine.
He praised their "good police work" in tracking the odour to a specific
residence. The grow operation was discovered on March 22. A 37-year-old
Roberts Creek man and a 40-year-old West Vancouver woman were arrested and
held overnight in custody. They are facing charges of theft of electricity,
production of marijuana and possessing the drug for trafficking purposes.
Their names were not released.

Fontaine said officers uncovered a sophisticated marijuana grow operation
with 18 "monster plants" each bearing 1.1 kg (2.5 lb.) of the drug, 24
smaller juvenile plants as well as 4.5 kg (10 lb.) of packaged marijuana.
Police estimated the drugs' street value as being $135,000. Of the larger
plants, nine were 1.8 metres (six feet) tall, said Fontaine."These were
large, well established plants," said Fontaine. "Each bud was so heavy it
had to be suspended by wires coming from the ceiling. There was a light
over each plant, with just one fan blowing over these lights. If the fan
had gone out, there was so much heat the house would have caught fire."

As it was, police estimated the property damage to be at least $20,000
because of the hydroponic growing process.

"The two-by-fours behind the walls are rotted through because of all the
moisture," said Fontaine. He pointed out that marijuana is dangerous in
itself and a "gateway drug" to more harmful addictive substances. "This was
a victory for good old-fashioned police work," he said. He said that if the
drug was smuggled over the American border it would be worth more than double.

Donna Baird, executive director of Seaview Addiction Services in West
Vancouver, said that despite misleading stories in much of the media,
modern strains of super-strength marijuana can prove to be a very addictive
and very harmful drug. At any one time the centre, which has been running
since 1988, works with 200 to 500 clients with a variety of addictions.

"People think cannabis today is the same stuff they were smoking 20 or so
years ago," she said. "But it is much more potent and addictive. Anything
mood-altering is addictive." She said cannabis causes motivational
problems, with many heavy users unable to figure the damage the drug is
doing. It affects the immune system, causes sexual dysfunction, apathy and

Pubdate: Wed, 03 Apr 2002
Source: North Shore News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 North Shore News