Fire leads to drug charges

Leamington OPP station. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

A garage fire in Leamington led provincial police to bust an illegal pot operation.

The Leamington Fire Department and the Ontario Provincial Police were called to the fully-engulfed structure fire on Mersea Road 8 around 2:00 p.m. on January 29, 2020.

During the fire investigation, officers found several items related to the production of illicit cannabis and cannabis by-products. OPP returned with a search warrant the next day and seized about 80 kg of dried cannabis, 60 kg of cannabis oils and resins, and about 1 kg of hardened cannabis resin. The seized goods are estimated by police to have a street value of about $500,000.

Chatham resident Douglas Johnstone, 56, is charged with altering or offering to alter the chemical or physical properties of cannabis by the use of an organic solvent.

The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM), the OPP Community Street Crime Unit (CSCU), and Clandestine Laboratory Investigative Response Team (CLIRT) are assisting with the investigation, which remains ongoing.