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Air Strikes Used To Cull Marijuana Crop


i wanna be cool too!
Oct 22, 2005
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British Columbia
07 Sep 2006

by Chris Bush,
Marijuana grows well in Vancouver Island's great outdoors, which means the RCMP annually take to the skies to track and destroy grow-crops.

From Aug. 22-30, RCMP Const. Darren Lagan was airborne over much of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands keeping his eyes peeled for pot.

The eight-day search, using military helicopters from CFB Comox, turned up more than 16,500 plants which police seized and destroyed.

More than 4,200 plants were discovered in the wilderness areas around Nanaimo and Gabriola Island.

"Generally we're finding them on Crown lands and that's the focus -- not on private lands," said Lagan.

"We did find the odd one there [private lands], but with private lands we obviously have a set of rules as far as entry and that sort of thing."

Warrants have been drawn up to enter private properties where plants were spotted.

Because of its sparser population and wilderness, northern regions of Vancouver Island tend to have more outdoor grow-ops.

"That's not a reflection on the communities. I want to stress that," he said. "It's the climate, the land, the isolation and the abundance of Crown land."

Patches of marijuana are often found in newer growth, re-planted forest within the previous five to 10 years.

Trees will be cleared and marijuana planted in pots within the cleared areas.

These are often in valleys and areas where there are streams or lakes nearby that provide water sources for irrigation.

"When we're out flying, what we'll see is these new-growth areas and all of a sudden there's this vibrant green patch," he said.

"To simplify, it looks a bit like broccoli. That sounds like a weird analogy, but it has a green that stands out considerably from the flora around it."

Most patches consist of 50 to 100 plants with up to five patches in a general area with the plants growing up to two metres tall.

Lagan said outdoor grow operations are not as sophisticated as indoor hydroponics types, but they do require time, effort, skill, knowledge and money to set them up.

Months of preparation work go into the airborne searches, which are flown around harvest time in late summer.

"There are still some sites out there coming in, so we're using local detachment ground operations to get in and eradicate those," he said. "We visited more than 250 sites."

Nailing the growers is more difficult since catching anyone by surprise is difficult using noisy helicopters, but the main purpose of the seizures is to stop the crop from being sold on the street and ultimately financing organized crime, said Lagan.

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