Bill Blair, the man now in charge of cannabis legalization in Canada, once oversaw “Project Growstop” for the Toronto Police. Starting in 2004, the campaign diverted “investigators, police, staff and equipment” from other tasks and focused them on cannabis gardens.
Project Growstop had “some success;” the team identified and raided over 160 gardens within six months. However, despite an 18-per-cent increase in arrests for cannabis gardeners over the same period the previous year, Chief Bill Blair was still frustrated. “I don’t think we are satisfactorily on top of it,” he lamented.
Meanwhile, “arrests for other drug offences plummeted, sinking 77 per cent in the city’s east end and 20 per cent in the west end because drug squad officers were reassigned to the grow-op squad.”
These days, Blair is claiming that the cannabis industry “overwhelmingly is controlled by organized crime. They make billions of dollars in profits from that illegal distribution and production of cannabis in our communities and they’re not in any way doing anything positive with that. They’re responsible for much of the violence and victimization that takes place in our communities.”
Alas, he is wrong.
Pot raids draining resources, police say
Globe and Mail, July 13, 2005
BY JEFF GRAY
Toronto Police say they are taking down more marijuana grow operations this year than ever before, but Chief Bill Blair warns that the exploding number of pot busts is draining resources.
“I don’t think we are satisfactorily on top of it,” Chief Blair said yesterday after a Police Services Board meeitng. “We know that it’s a problem that continues to grow.”
According to a report presented to the board yesterday, police broke up 169 grow operations this year as of June 1. The tally represents an 18-per-cent increase over the same period in 2004.
Earlier this year, former chief Julian Fantino had requested funding for a multimillion-dollar grow-op task force.
The plan included a shopping list for high-tech equipment, such as an additional $40,000 infrared device to detect the excessive heat grow-ops give off.
But that plan went nowhere, given the city’s financial constraints. Instead, the police went ahead with a 15-member ad-hoc marijuana squad – called Project Growstop – using drug squad investigators and police from the divisions in suburban northern Scarborough, North York, and Etobicoke, and existing staff and equipment.
And while they have had some success, it has come at a cost. Arrests for other drug offences have plummeted, sinking 77 per cent in the city’s east end and 20 per cent in the west end because drug squad officers were reassigned to the grow-op squad, the police report says.
Chief Blair said he is in talks with federal and provincial officials about how to combat the problem.