Toronto -- Bob Runciman, Minister of Public Safety and Security charged
today that the federal government's insistence to decriminalize marijuana is
putting the people of Ontario at risk.

"The potential for the proliferation of grow house operations in Ontario is
a reality because of the federal government's legislation to decriminalize
marijuana," said Runciman.

"It's time for the federal government to establish tough minimum sentences
because without their help, grow house operations will continue to thrive."
Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino also expressed his concerns about the
consequences of the federal government's proposal to decriminalize
marijuana.

"This proposal, if it is passed, will result in a proliferation of marijuana
grow houses in our Province," he said. "These operations will not be run by
law-abiding citizens; they will be operated by organized crime."

Runciman urged the federal government to direct a fair share of the $64
million, which was announced for RCMP drug enforcement following the
introduction of the federal marijuana decriminalization legislation, to
Ontario provincial and municipal police services.

OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface echoed the concerns regarding grow
operations. "The epidemic of indoor marijuana grow operations, spearheaded
by organized crime, pose considerable threats to the public and to police
and fire personnel, by virtue of the use of hydro bypasses and chemical
fertilizers used in the production of the plants," she said.

Runciman also questioned other priorities of the federal government. "It's
mind boggling that the federal government is devoting all this time and
resources to decriminalization, when there are more than 36,000 illegal
immigrants in Canada; they are dragging their feet on establishing a
National Sex Offender Registry and they have not provided compensation to
victims of SARS," he said.

An average grow house operation in Ontario could yield a profit of $1
million annually and anyone caught in this activity typically only faces a
conditional sentence of up to nine months, which consists of no time spent
in a correctional facility.

Fact Sheet:

INDOOR MARIJUANA GROW OPERATIONS FACTS AND FIGURES

Small Indoor Grow: 50 plants yield profit of $55,000 annually Offenders
typically sentenced to 60-90 days. More likely a conditional sentence.

Average Grow: 300 plants yield profit of $1 million annually Offenders
typically sentenced to up to nine months. More likely a conditional
sentence.

Large Grow: 20,000 indoor/outdoor plants yield a profit of $15 million
Offenders typically face 18-month jail terms.

* In 2002, provincial and municipal police services shut down 1,200 indoor
grow operations across the province.

* According to Niagara Regional Police, there have been at least nine fires
in the Niagara region in 2001-2002 that exposed marijuana-growing.
operations.

* Peel Regional Police dismantled 31 indoor marijuana grow operations in
2000; they dismantled 152 in 2001 and 243 in 2002.

* Average indoor grow operations with a hydro bypass "steal" from
$18,000-$20,000 in hydro per year.

* The average home uses on average 5-7 amps of electricity. Grow houses
typically use from 50-200 amps for heat lamps used to grow marijuana and
these lamps pose significant fire risks.

* The Electricity Distributors Association estimates $500 million worth of
hydro was stolen in 2002.

* Temperatures inside the house usually reach 40 degrees Celsius or more.

* In 2001, 24 grow houses in the Greater Toronto Area caught fire.

* Grow houses also pose environmental risks from the chemicals used to
cultivate the crops. In the event of fire, these chemicals can be a
potential toxic risk.

* Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chief intoxicant in marijuana, was between
1-2 per cent in the 1970s. The drugs produced today are now more than 10
times more powerful.

* The size of cannabis grow operations varies from a few plants grown in a
closet to thousands of plants hidden in warehouses or underground bunkers.

* Grow house operators frequently rent houses from unsuspecting landlords.
The houses are often destroyed by the operation.

* On average police take from 60 to 120 hours to investigate and dismantle
each indoor marijuana grow operation.

For further information: Bruce O'Neill, Ministry of Public Safety and
Security, (416) 326-5005; Meaghan McFedries, Minister's Office, (416)
325-0867

For more information visit http://www.mpss.gov.on.ca