London Police say since legalization, cannabis theft has become a citywide trend

A London man says after six months of lovingly tending to his first homegrown cannabis plant, someone stole it from right beneath his nose, something police say has recently become a citywide trend.

Police are encouraging people to report any incidents of pilfering by pot poachers

Mark Kulmala poses with what's left of his cannabis plant, which thieves severed at the stem before making off with a plant Kulmala said wasn't ready to harvest yet. (Mark Kulmala)

A London man says after six months of lovingly tending to his first homegrown cannabis plant, someone stole it from right beneath his nose, something police say has recently become a citywide trend. 

Mark Kulmala said he doesn't even smoke cannabis, the plants were actually a gift from a friend who knew he had always wanted to try his hand at growing cannabis at home. 

"I've always kind of wanted to get into gardening and grow fruit and vegetables and stuff but I just thought it would be a funny thing to do now that you can grow it legally. I wanted to learn how to harvest it too and give it away to all my friends."

"The one plant was the runt of the litter and ended up dying. It got to be about six inches tall and that was it. Then they gave me another one and it grew pretty big."

So for six months he took care of it, carefully giving it all the water and attention it needed to grow big and tall. Then one day, he came home to discover someone had made off with it. 

"Normally I see the plant sitting there and I'll kind of look at it and see how it's doing and I got home and it was just a pot with the spikey stick."

"They had just broken it right at the branch."

Luckily, Kulmala isn't a cannabis aficionado, or a serious grower. 

"Honestly, I laughed. It looked really funny. It wasn't even ready to be harvested, so it's just such a waste for them to take it." 

As far as suspects go, Kulmala said it could be anybody. 

"I get a lot of characters coming through my yard," he said. "I have to kick them out of the yard and all that."

"I don't know if it was someone who just walked by and happened to see it and broke it off and just walked around with this weed bouquet or if it was someone who waited and thought it was ready and just didn't know about it."

Backyard bud becoming more popular

According to Statistics Canada, growing cannabis in the backyard has become more common since legalization. Data from 2019 shows 14 per cent of cannabis users either grow their own or get their weed from someone who does.

There are no official numbers on the amount of cannabis plants that are stolen from backyards each year, but reports of it happening are becoming increasingly common.

Last month, a series of thefts were reported in nearby Waterloo Region and the OPP have recently had reports of cannabis stolen in Exeter, Mount Forest, Owen Sound and Norfolk County. 

In London, city police have been hearing about thefts since the first legal backyard plants matured in the fall of 2019. 

Police spokeswoman Const. Sandasha Bough said police received a number of reports of cannabis plants being stolen last fall and again this fall.

London Police offer tips on how to protect your plants

Any budding green thumb looking to grow cannabis should also consider the fact the plant is highly prized by sticky-fingered thieves, who Bough noted only have to follow their nose. 

"Cannabis, just like any property in your yard, there are thieves who are looking to take advantage of easy access to these items."

"The odour of the plant alone is a giveaway to anyone in the neighbourhood that the plants are growing nearby."

Bough said if someone is looking to grow their own at home, police offer a number of tips to make one's budding backyard stash more secure: 

  • If you have a fence, ensure your gate is locked.. 

  • Install security cameras around your property as a deterrent to thieves and to assist police.

  • If you see something, say something.

Bough said the last point is the most important. She said police can't do anything about it unless they know about it, so she encourages anyone whose weed gets stolen to report the theft to police. 

She said that way, officers get a more accurate picture of which crimes are being committed in the city and can allocate their resources more efficiently.