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Cannabis worth $2.4 million seized near Waterford

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An online petition calling on the Trudeau government to provide greater oversight of the production of cannabis was launched last week.

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Word of the petitions came against the backdrop of another major drug bust in Norfolk County.

The execution of a search warrant at a property on Townsend Concession 7 near Waterford on Oct. 22 netted illegal cannabis with an estimated street value of $2.4 million.

The seizure included recently harvested plants as well as processed flowertops.

Two individuals from Markham – a 31 and 34-year-old – and a 38-year-old from Norfolk County face numerous charges.

These include the illegal propagation, cultivation, harvest and possession of cannabis, as well as charges for illegal distribution. In a news release the next day, Const. Ed Sanchuk of the Norfolk OPP said more arrests were pending.

It was the third major shutdown of an illegal cannabis-production facility in Norfolk over the past month. The issue is top-of-mind locally because dozens of similar operations have popped up now that cannabis for medical and recreational purposes is legal in Canada.

Some of these operations are problematic because no effort is made to mitigate odour or light pollution. As well, police have concluded that some operations have an organized crime component involving the trans-border shipment of cannabis in exchange for guns, hard narcotics and cash.

Authorities have concluded that many of the illicit producers in Norfolk have Health Canada permits for the third-party production of legal medical marijuana.

Norfolk’s Police Services Board recently heard that illegal operators simply multiply the hundreds of plants they are allowed to produce legally into the thousands and divert the surplus to the black market.

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On Oct. 7, Health Canada officials told Norfolk’s police services board that they haven’t done as many inspections as they’d like in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Haldimand-Norfolk MP Diane Finley has grilled Health Minister Patty Hadju about this situation in the House of Commons. In a recent exchange, Hadju said ensuring the production of cannabis remains within legal boundaries is a priority for her government.

Finley followed that up on Oct. 23 with news of an online petition allowing Canadians concerned by this activity to keep pressure on the federal government.

“For years now, health ministers have been unwilling to address the serious issues within the legal regime governing medical marijuana growing, particularly what’s referred to as the ‘designated-grower component.’” Finley said in a news release.

“The designated-grower program is rife with abuse, lacks sufficient oversight from Health Canada, and has loopholes that allow operations to grow to the size of large-scale commercial operations with none of the oversights or controls that would prevent odours and environmental impacts on our communities.

“Law enforcement is also aware of a growing number of designated grower facilities that are linked to organized crime.”

Those wishing to add their name to the petition can do so by visiting dianefinley.ca/cannabis. The petition will be available at Finley’s website till Jan. 20.

“I encourage as many people as possible to show your support and send a message to the government,” Finley says. “The people of Haldimand-Norfolk and communities right across the country have been dealing with the consequences of this poorly-crafted program.

“Loopholes need to be closed and our local officials and law enforcement need the tools to investigate and prosecute unlawful operations and to safeguard against the impact that unlawful growers are having on Canadians’ health and quality of life.”

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