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Canada: Ontario toughens rules to uproot grow-ops

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[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Hamilton Spectator
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[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Friday 04 Aug 2006
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Police, municipalities and power companies now have more power to uproot
marijuana grow operations.

The new law -- a string of amendments to toughen up existing legislation
and bring it to bear on grow houses -- makes it easier to identify them,
cut off their power, get them inspected and repaired for public safety
and if necessary, have them seized and sold off with proceeds going to
fight crime.

Hamilton deputy Police Chief Tom Marlor says the legislation announced
yesterday -- some of which came into effect Tuesday and the bulk of it
last December -- gives police a few new tools to fight grow houses.

Police dismantled about 100 grow operations a year in Hamilton, Marlor
said. About half are identified by the fire department and hydro crews.

These changes, he said, make it easier for police and their community
partners such as fire and power crews to find grow-ops more effectively,
deal with them more quickly and ensure the next person who lives there
is safe.

The law requires municipal inspectors to make sure homes police identify
as grow operations are habitable or repaired as necessary.

Ontario's Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter rolled out the changes
yesterday. He reminded criminals of legislation already in effect, such
as the civil remedies law which the attorney general used to seize the
notorious Sandbar building and crack house downtown in the spring.

Kwinter also said he's looking into establishing a provincial registry
of homes that have been grow-ops or methamphetamine labs to protect
unsuspecting buyers from getting stuck with damaged houses.

At the moment, homes that were used to grow marijuana can be sold
without anyone being told what they once were.

Marijuana grow houses are often filled with mould and hazardous
electrical wiring as criminals bypass meters. Meth labs can leave homes
filled with chemical contamination.

"We want to be sure nobody unsuspectingly buys a house that's had the
structure compromised because of a grow-op," Kwinter said.

He said the changes announced yesterday -- officially the Law
Enforcement and Forfeited Property Management Statute Law Amendment Act
-- amends several provincial laws to bring them to bear on grow houses.

As of Tuesday, changes to the Municipal Act mean municipalities must
inspect properties that police have identified as grow houses and order
repairs if necessary. The law also says an owner or landlord can't sell
the house or occupy it unless repairs ordered are made.

Also coming into effect Tuesday were changes to the Crown Attorney's Act
to appoint a director so the government can manage and dispose of
assets, order repairs to properties or dispose of property forfeited to
the Crown following court proceedings.

The money from these proceedings will be used to fight crime.

Changes to the nine-year-old Fire Protection and Prevention Act, which
came into effect in December, double the fines for violations such as
fire hazards caused by poor wiring, a common feature found in grow-ops,
to $50,000 or a year in jail for individuals or up to $100,000 for
corporations.

As of December, power companies can shut off the electricity supply to a
building without notice if the distributor believes there is a threat to
public safety or the reliability of the power system. Grow houses, which
use vast amounts of electricity, are often the source of fires due to
criminals tampering with meters and attempts to bypass billing controls.

There is an appeal process established in the law to have power restored.

Signs you might be living next door to a marijuana grow operation:

* You don't see the occupants, or the occupants only arrive at night and
don't want to interact with neighbours.

* Window blinds and curtains are always drawn, or there's film over the
windows to block anyone from viewing inside.

* Mail frequently piles up, especially flyers.

* Occupants are never seen tending to the premises, such as watering
flowers or shovelling snow in the winter.

* No garbage is put out.
 

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