$150 million worth of cannabis seized in Project Green Sweep

The illegal production of illicit cannabis is a “growing problem” that results in violence, York Regional Police warn following the seizure of $150 million worth of illegal cannabis as part of Project Green Sweep this past summer.

Police seized 29,000 plants and 3,990 pounds of harvested cannabis after executing 15 search warrants at indoor and outdoor cannabis grow operations throughout York, including Markham, King, Stouffville and East Gwillimbury. Seven firearms, two crossbows and a conducted energy weapon were also seized.

Police also found several exotic animals, including three kangaroos and two zebras, at a location in Schomberg. Animal control was notified and is investigating. The investigation resulted in the arrest of 37 people who face a combined 67 charges.

“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,” Chief of Police Jim MacSween says. “Organized crime continues to exploit an outdated Health Canada medical licensing system, which is generating tremendous profit that we know is resulting in violence and funding other criminal activity in our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.”

Licensed growers can pool up to four grow licenses per address and turn a single production site into a cannabis farm. Organized crime networks have comfortably embedded themselves in this business, capitalizing and exploiting the loopholes in the current legislation, YRP alleges.

Proceeds derived from the illicit cannabis trade often fund other facets of those crime groups, including the distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine and firearms. “Here in York Region, the illicit cannabis market being run by groups that are deeply entrenched in criminal activity has a direct correlation to violence in this community,” Insp. Ryan Hogan says. “We have seen multiple home invasions in 2020 alone that are directly related to illicit cannabis.”

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

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