Police seize illegal cannabis connected to organized crime

·2 min read

A huge drug bust by York Regional Police has removed illegal cannabis from the streets.

Six King Township residents face charges of cultivation for distribution, and possession for distribution.

Investigators with YRP’s Organized Crime Bureau – Guns, Gangs and Drug Enforcement Unit seized approximately $150 million dollars worth of illegal cannabis and laid dozens of charges as a result of Project Green Sweep.

Project Green Sweep took place during the summer months of 2020, as part of the York Regional Police Cannabis Enforcement Strategy. Officers executed 15 search warrants at various indoor and outdoor cannabis grow operations throughout York Region, including King Township, Markham, Stouffville and East Gwillimbury, resulting in 37 arrests and 67 charges.

Investigators believe that organized crime continues to exploit the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation (ACMPR). The regulation allows some designated growers to grow hundreds of plants and store hundreds of pounds of harvested cannabis for personal use. Licensed growers can pool up to four grow licenses per address and turn a single production site into a cannabis farm. York Regional Police is alleging all the cannabis grown and harvested at the identified locations was destined to be sold in the criminal market.

Organized crime networks have comfortably embedded themselves in this business, capitalizing and exploiting the loopholes in the current legislation. Proceeds derived from the illicit cannabis trade often fund other facets of these crime groups, including the distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine and firearms.

As part of Project Green Sweep, officers seized 28,964 plants and 3,990 pounds of harvested cannabis, with a total street value of approximately $150 million dollars. Also seized were seven firearms, two crossbows and a conducted energy weapon.

At one location in Schomberg, several exotic animals, including three kangaroos and two zebras, were located. Animal control was notified and is investigating.

“The illegal production of illicit cannabis is a growing problem in York Region and our citizens regularly call to report these large-scale indoor and outdoor grow operations,” said Chief of Police Jim MacSween. “Organized crime continues to exploit an outdated Health Canada medical licensing system, which is generating tremendous profit that we know is resulting in violence and funding other criminal activity in our community.”

The investigation is ongoing.

“We continue to encourage our community to contact police if they suspect that cannabis is being grown illegally. We will investigate all tips received,” police said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the York Regional Police Guns, Gangs and Drug Enforcement Unit at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7817, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-tips, leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.

Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel