SOUTH DUNDAS – The September 21st cannabis bust (pictured right) on Rowena Road north east of Iroquois was part of a much larger organized crime take-down by the Ontario Provincial Police this fall.
Between July 1st and October 15th, various units within the OPP including the Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau seized over $143 million in cannabis across the province after investigators executed 52 warrants and arrested 195 people.
Police say several criminal enterprises were exploiting Health Canada registrations for medical, personal, and designated cannabis production. Cannabis was authorized to be produced for medical purposes, but then diverted into the illegal market. “Organized crime is firmly entrenched in the production, distribution and sale of illegal cannabis,” said detective inspector Jim Walker with the OPP’s OCEB. “These criminals continue to exploit the Health Canada medical cannabis personal and designate production regime by diverting the cannabis to the illegal market.”
He said that the impact of the large scale criminal production sites could not be understated and include issues with public safety, environment contamination, and human trafficking.
The Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team laid 327 charges under the federal Cannabis Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.
There were several high-profile cannabis seizures in the region including the South Dundas operation which yeilded 1,700 plants and over 200 kilograms of processed cannabis. Three different locations in Leeds County saw over 10,500 plants seized.
Police were involved in cannabis busts throughout southern Ontario including in Prince Edward County, Northumberland County, and Haldiman-Norfolk.
Many operations including the South Dundas operation involved property being legally purchased and building permits taken out for the construction of greenhouses. South Dundas issued a permit for the Rowena Road site on May 11th this year for that purpose. Criminal operations like this have flourished since the legalization of cannabis. Many rural municipalities, including South Dundas, are reviewing current planning bylaws to try to regulate where cannabis can be grown.
Other areas which have had issues include South Glengarry, where a cannabis growing operation began in the former S. J. McLeod elementary school, and in various locations in North Dundas.
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