OUR BUMPER POT CROP
Rural Manitoba has a new cash crop, apparently. Since farmers aren't making much of anything from grain, cattle or oilseeds, it seems some entrepreneurial green thumbs are heading to the country to plant another special crop - marijuana.
Narcotics officers from Winnipeg and Brandon made a tremendous bust near Oak Lake on Monday afternoon when they shut down a grow-op with 13,200 plants. At about $1,000 a plant, the grow house had more than $13 million of marijuana, making it one of the largest drug busts in this part of the world in memory.
Let's put that into perspective: the value of the drugs seized Monday was double the value of Manitoba's rye crop in 2004.
According to the provincial agricultural department's statistics, it was more than half the value of the province's soybean crop last year and more than a quarter of what its barley crop fetched in 2004.
While the bust was no doubt huge, one can't be so naive to think that it was the only grow-op in rural Manitoba. It seems more and more, drug growers are turning to remote areas to ply their trade instead of converting houses in Brandon or Winnipeg into grow-ops.
Last summer, a grow house was shut down in the hamlet of Clanwilliam, north of Minnedosa. Earlier this year, another place that was producing the dangerous drug crystal meth was raided in Kelwood, another small town north of Neepawa.
For police, who the Winnipeg Free Press reported shut down a grow house every three days in 2003, the move by marijuana growers from the city to the country has to be concerning.
They can only hope that rural residents notice something fishy going on at the neighbours' place and help them bust these places before they take root outside Manitoba's largest cities.
Brandon Sun (CN MB)
Copyright: 2005, Brandon Sun