Canadian Marijuana Surpasses Wheat as Biggest Crop
Date: Saturday, October 01 2005
Canadian Marijuana Surpasses Wheat as Biggest Crop (Update2)
Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Canada's marijuana dealers are converting suburban homes and abandoned warehouses into pot farms, creating a C$10 billion ($8.5 billion) market that's three times the size of the nation's biggest legal crop, wheat.
Cities such as Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto may each have as many as 20,000 pot factories according to some estimates, said Rich Baylin, former national coordinator for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Cultivation is rising because penalties are often one-eighth those in the U.S., and Canadians' acceptance of pot has risen.
``This is a scourge on our communities and a danger to our children,'' Liberal Party lawmaker Jim Karygiannis said following a raid on a so-called grow-operation in a bungalow about 100 meters (109 yards) from a Toronto elementary school.
The ``grow-op'' business has created a rift with the U.S., where police say much of the weed is sold. Efforts by Prime Minister Paul Martin to decriminalize marijuana are a bigger threat to U.S. relations than the softwood-lumber dispute, according to a Compas Research poll of 146 Canadian chief executives in March.
``The U.S. is taking the border a lot more seriously than in the past,'' said Tom Riley, spokesman for the White House Office for National Drug Control Policy. The increase in Canadian marijuana production risks harming all trade between the two countries, he said.
Almost half of all adult Canadians smoked pot at least once in their life, according to a survey last year by Health Canada. The same proportion support decriminalization of possession, compared with a third of their U.S. counterparts, a November Ipsos-Reid poll found.
While U.S. growers who cultivate 1,000 or more plants face a minimum of 10 years in prison, their counterparts in Ontario, Canada's most populous province, get about 18 months, according to government figures.
``We know the volume of these grow operations is growing,'' said Jack Ewatski, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. ``That leads us to believe this is an enterprise that organized crime groups are looking at as very lucrative with very low risk of any meaningful consequences.''
Last Updated: September 30, 2005 14:20 EDT