Toronto

8 charged after $400K worth of 'excess cannabis' found on King Township grow-op

Eight people have been charged with marijuana trafficking north of Toronto after local residents complained to police about cannabis farms where more pot is allegedly grown than legally allowed, York Regional Police say.

Cannabis farms, growing weed over licensed limits, may be linked to organized crime, police say

Eight people have been charged with marijuana trafficking north of Toronto, police say. (CBC)

Eight people have been charged with marijuana trafficking north of Toronto after local residents complained to police about cannabis farms where more pot was allegedly grown than legally allowed, York Regional Police say.

All eight have been charged with producing and possessing marijuana for trafficking purposes.

Two are women from Toronto, both 50, while two are men from Quebec, a 43-year-old from Laval, and a 36-year-old from Montreal. Of the remaining four people, two are from King Township, one is from Bradford and another is from Markham.

Police said they found more than 400 marijuana plants were being grown illegally, over licensed limits, on two properties in King Township, in early September. The properties are in the area of Woodchopper Lane and Dufferin Street, east of Highway 400.

The 400 plants, or excess cannabis, have a value of nearly $400,000 and were seized, said Const. Andy Pattenden, spokesperson for York Regional Police.

He said the investigation was prompted by complaints from residents who live in the rural area.

A York Regional Police officer holds marijuana plants from a grow operation in King Township in July. Police charged two people at that time for possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and producing marijuana. (York Regional Police)

Last Wednesday, officers searched the two properties after obtaining warrants and found that Health Canada had issued licences for cannabis to be grown there. One of the properties had four licences to grow 1,140 plants, while the other had three licences to grow 1,121 plants.

The discovery of the plants, along with the arrests and charges, has caused police to be concerned that organized crime is moving into licensed medical marijuana grow operations and exploiting federal Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes regulations, he added.

"Our investigators are concerned about this trend," Pattenden said. "Despite the licences in this area, there continues to be overgrowing of the allowable amounts. We do believe that there are links to organized crime involved in these operations."

Police concerned cannabis being sold on black market

Under the regulations, designated growers can pool up to four grow licences per address and turn a single production site into a marijuana farm.

But because the growers are not appointed as licensed producers, they are avoiding Health Canada regulations on growing, security and quality control, he said.

A view inside a greenhouse from a grow operation in King Township that police busted in July. (York Regional Police)

"The concern we have here is the quantity of plants being grown," he said. "Under this system, there are no checks and balances from Health Canada. They are able to grow this cannabis at a very low cost."

Pattenden said police believe the end result is that the majority of the cannabis is sold on the black market.

All eight people charged were workers at one of the two properties, he added. Two, both men from Quebec, had been charged with the same offences in July at a massive grow operation on nearby Strawberry Lane.

'Blatant disregard for licensed grow limits'

"These investigations are raising significant concerns, as there is once again a blatant disregard for licensed grow limits," York Regional Police Chief ​Eric Jolliffe said in a news release on Tuesday.

"We are concerned the legalization of marijuana on October 17 will increase overall demand and organized crime is poised and ready to supply that demand."

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