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Medical grow op hid guns, drugs and cash

A medical marijuana operation busted in Chilliwack was allegedly found to be growing hundreds more plants than its federal licences allowed.

A multiple police agency raid executed June 3 on a Cultus Lake Road property yielded almost 450 pot plants, according to RCMP.

But the medical marijuana licences held by the residents were for a maximum of 74 plants.

Also seized were 20,000 ecstasy pills, an ounce of cocaine and some methamphetamine. There was also cash, a bulletproof vest, and two firearms seized.

Five Chilliwack residents were arrested for possession for the purposes of trafficking, including a male, 51, female, 45, male, 24, and another male, 18.

"Charges are pending for four of the five people arrested," said RCMP Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth.

The search warrant was executed by 24 officers from Chilliwack RCMP Crime Reduction unit, Abbotsford Police and the Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team.

Police say the street value for the ecstasy was more than $60,400. The 84 pounds of marijuana had a street value of about $126,000, while the cocaine would sell for an estimated $500.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said that mayors across the Lower Mainland have been concerned for a long time about medical grows operated by "unscrupulous" individuals producing "much more" marijuana than the licences allow, and then selling the excess on the streets.

"There simply has not been the kind of scrutiny by Health Canada we need with this," she said. "They system they designed is not working."

Coun. Chuck Stam agreed, adding that the city was notified by RCMP and Fire Department reps that increasingly medical grow-ops would be found to be surpassing their licensed limits.

"We had been warned that this was the trend," he said. "Some believe that getting a licence actually buys them immunity from search warrants, and it goes back to the problem of Health Canada's failed promise of inspections."

City officials have "blown the whistle" on the medical marijuana situation in recent discussions with Health Canada officials.

"We let them know we have a huge, out-of-control problem here because the city has no jurisdiction, and something has to change."

City officials grasp the privacy ramifications of licensees, Gaetz underlined, and the importance of confidentiality, but nonetheless voted for a motion at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Halifax calling for the requirement of a city licence for medical pot growers to ensure compliance with local bylaws, health and safety regulations before getting their federal licence to grow.

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