Massive OPP cannabis seizures no surprise to consumer group

Photo of an illegal grow operation courtesy of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Since the beginning of July, the Ontario Provincial Police has seized 122,000 cannabis plants from illegal grow operations.

The OPP Regional Community Street Crime Units, members of the OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau, Emergency Response Team, and the Tactics and Rescue Unit targeted several large-scale, sophisticated illegal cannabis operations.

The haul is worth over $143 million.

In addition to cannabis plants, police seized 36 firearms and $76,337 in cash. Police arrested 195 people who face 327 federal Cannabis Act and Criminal Code charges.

A total of 52 operations were searched, including three in the West Region.

The operations exploit Health Canada rules allowing medical and personal use.

“Organized crime is firmly entrenched in the production, distribution, and sale of illegal cannabis,” said Detective Inspector Jim Walker with the Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team. “From concerns regarding public safety and environmental contamination to human trafficking, the impacts that these large-scale cannabis production sites have on our communities can not be understated.”

That is no surprise to David Clement, the North American Affairs Manager for Consumer Choice Centre.

“The OPP’s report confirms what we speculated back in April,” he said. “That organized crime has weaselled its way into the permit process.”

Clement said the personal and designate program produces 2.5 to 4.5 times more cannabis than the legal market, and the excess is being diverted to the black market.

“Health Canada should review the permit process to ensure that criminal networks aren’t using it to fuel their nefarious activities,” he continued. “That said, the government shouldn’t target legitimate permit holders. Doing so would violate their constitutional rights, and would be exceptionally cruel given how marginalized this group has historically been.”

Police remind the public the only legal way to purchase cannabis is through the online Ontario Cannabis Store or at a licensed retailer authorized to sell it by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

“The purchase of cannabis from anywhere other than the online OCS or an authorized private retailer could lead to a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to one year,” said the OPP.