ROOTING OUT THE LAST OF SURREY'S GROW OPS
There are still hundreds of marijuana grow operations in this city, despite the fact B.C. Hydro consumption records indicate there are practically none, according to Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis.
And many operators have simply located to other parts of the province - - a problem Garis wants to see stopped.
He noted growers are becoming more sophisticated, keeping their plantations under the hydro threshold ( three times typical household usage ), or simply stealing the power from outside the home. So he's pushing forward on several other fronts.
Garis is the architect of the Electrical Fire Safety Initiative, which involves a dedicated team visiting homes with extremely high hydro consumption ( a signature for the presence of a home grow operation ).
Homeowners are given two days to allow an inspection, or the power to the home is cut. The EFSI team has shut down more than 1,000 grow ops in this city since it began in 2005. Now Garis wants to shut down the rest of them, which are flying under the hydro radar, and he's asking the public to report suspicious activity to the police. Signs of a grow operation could be frequent visits to a home late at night, blocked windows, or windows with condensation on the inside, as well as the presence of planting pots.
Garis is also lobbying the provincial government to initiate several actions, including regulations on how hydroponic growing equipment is sold. The powerful lights emulate sunshine, and are required for indoor growing.
With restrictions on the sale of that equipment, Surrey's problem wouldn't simply be shifting to other areas of the province, which evidence seems to indicate is happening.
In a letter to the deputy solicitor general for B.C., Garis details the issue.
"Significant displacement of grow operations is occurring to other areas of the Lower Mainland ( up five per cent ), to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands ( up 19 per cent ) and the B.C. North ( up seven per cent )." Garis wrote. "As for the 38 per cent fewer hydroponic outlets in the Lower Mainland, it would appear the largest displacement is to the Interior of B.C., which has seen a 23 per cent increase in hydroponic outlets."
He further notes that while EFSI-participating communities have cause to celebrate success, the reversing trend is "not good news for B.C.'s outlying communities."
He also noted to the deputy minister that if the province doesn't get ahead of the problem, a lot of good work will unravel.
"Clearly the industry has adjusted its operation to avoid detection and interruption of their illicit activities," Garis said. "If we do not take action now to build upon our successes, we risk an overall net loss of our accomplishments."
B.C. Solicitor General John van Dongen told The Leader Wednesday he's received a letter from Garis and is considering the implications.
"We are actively working on that issue," van Dongen said. "We do have some different points of view on it, but I can assure him we're personally engaged in it and we're reviewing it."
He said his office is considering legislation to address the issue, but couldn't say when it would be introduced.
Copyright: 2009 Surrey Leader