Saturday, January 17, 2004


I like the title of this piece in the Globe and Mail on the Molson grow bust in Barrie, Ontario. HUGE MARIJUANA FACTORY WAS ONE STRANGE JOINT has some numbers to go with the pictures we posted earlier. The photos clearly could not capture the scope of the operation.

-- For the workers at Canada's biggest indoor marijuana farm, there was no summer, no winter, and no day or night. Instead, there was the artificial glow of more than a thousand industrial lights, the gurgle of chemicals and mattresses set in windowless concrete rooms. And of course there was the endless task of caring for more than 30,000 high-grade marijuana plants that produced an annual cash crop worth an estimated $100-million.

The pragmatic should be thinking tax revenues here. These guys are not growing it because nobody wants to buy it. And think about what that says about how many consumers are really out there. They are not growing that much unless they think they can sell it all. It has a long shelf life, but it does not keep forever.

Since early Saturday morning, police have been exploring the biggest indoor marijuana operation ever found in Canada -- a 6,000-square-metre farm equipped with "state of the art" equipment and facilities for as many as 50 workers. Investigators have found themselves staggered by the scale and the audacity of the enterprise.

This operation is believed to have been going on for a year, yards away from the busiest highway in Ontario,

The marijuana farm was a self-contained world that occupied almost half of the 11,600-square-metre brewery site. The facility included more than 30,000 marijuana plants, 1,000 high-powered growing lamps, hydroponic trays, an irrigation system and tanks filled with specialized chemicals that were used to boost the potency of the plants. There were also dormitory facilities that could house up to 50 people. Police said the facility was staffed around the clock.

They were good neighbors. No one noticed and no one complained but with that many people there's bound to be a bad seed over time. They were busted on a tip that I would bet came from the inside.

The police also reported the environment to feel unhealthy. All the more reason in my mind to legalize the industry in order to protect the workers who provide the labor. This bust will no doubt dent the supply of cannabis but will not eliminate the demand. It will merely raise the price that the remaining black market entrepreneurs will get for their product.

And somehow I don't see the benefit to Barrie, reported to be a "a pleasant city of just over 100,000." They spent thousands of tax dollars in law enforcement costs to disrupt their community and shut down a major employer. The workers probably didn't socialize much but they still would need to trade locally for essentials like gas, bandaids and Doritos.

Now those consumer dollars will be lost and who will bear the cost of dismantling the operation and destroying the product but the Canadian taxpayer? It still seems to me their government would do well here to shut down Flin Flon and hire these workers themselves to provide legally mandated medical cannabis, thus saving the taxpayers the expense of a long trial to prove a handful of master botanists are guilty of gardening and at the same time providing their certified medicinal users with a product already being cultivated under carefully controlled conditions.

They have the equipment, they should use it, not dismantle it. At the very least they could turn the operation over to a scientific research facililty. It seems a shame to waste such a well organized set-up.


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