Monday, July 25, 2005
IROQUOIS FALLS, Ont. (CP) - Police in northern Ontario have charged a Toronto man after they found marijuana fields stretching "three football fields in length" in what is considered to be one of Canada's largest pot busts.
Investigators found more than 21,000 marijuana plants behind a home nestled in the woods of Iroquois Falls, east of Timmins. Officers with the Ontario Provincial Police, North Bay police and a K-9 unit carried out a search warrant Sunday.
"We had a marijuana field approximately three football fields in length by one football field wide," said Ontario police Det.-Sgt. Bill O'Shea, a unit commander with the OPP's drug enforcement section.
"Plants were planted in straight rows just like any other crop."
No pains were taken to conceal the growing operation, said O'Shea, who described the operation as one of the biggest he'd ever seen.
"I've been in drug enforcement for approximately 15 years and this is one of the largest outdoor grows I've ever been involved in."
O'Shea said the seizure is part of a growing trend among marijuana growers who are moving away from the suburban neighbourhoods of southern Ontario, where police have been plagued by grow-ops, and into remote areas to avoid police detection.
"We have people from all over the province who seem to come to northern Ontario, this year in particular, who are involved in the commercial growing of marijuana," he said.
"With property values in the south, I think the main drive is your dollar goes a lot further and there's large open tracts of land here that make it attractive for commercial growing."
The seizure rivals the infamous pot bust made at a former Molson brewery in Barrie, Ont., in January last year.
In that case, investigators discovered 25,000 pot plants growing everywhere at the converted factory - even inside cavernous indoor vats once used to brew beer.
Ji Zhu Chu, 39, was arrested at the Iroquois Falls farm and is charged with producing a controlled substance.
O'Shea said more people were likely involved in the operation.
Police also seized a tractor, hoses and various other farming equipment.
The bust came just days after Ontario police seized more than 7,000 plants, ecstasy pills and growing equipment in Sundridge, Ont., south of North Bay.
© The Canadian Press 2005