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Law would cut marijuana grow-op power

Toronto Star - October 8, 2004
by Richard Brennan

Local utilities will have the power to shut off the electricity to homes suspected of growing marijuana under a proposed new law, Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter said yesterday.

"They will have the ability to cut off the power without notice ... they cannot do that now," Monte Kwinter told reporters.

The tough new measure will be included in legislation this fall aimed at ridding Ontario of the marijuana growing operations.

Kwinter backed away from earlier comments that the proposed law would give hydro, building and other inspectors special powers to enter a home they suspected was being used to grow marijuana.

"But somebody will be able to cut off your power without notice because we think you are doing something illegal," he said. "They will be able to determine that there is an excessive amount of power going into that house."

It is estimated that grow-ops steal some $80 million a year in electricity, besides posing a serious fire hazard.

However, critics say that cutting off someone's power could have disastrous effects.

"What if you make a mistake and somebody is living in that house and they have a piece of equipment that they need to live (such as a respirator)," Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North) said.

New Democrat MPP Michael Prue (Beaches-East York) said: "This seems hugely Draconian."

Kwinter said a local utility will have to do "due diligence and they have got to be able to justify why they have done it." He said because these marijuana operations use large amounts of electricity to keep the lights going 24 hours a day, they often bypass the meter and tie in directly to the main power source.

"Because of the bypassing of the meter, it is a public safety issue, because the power being used there is being used in very, very high (intensity) lamps ... and there is risk of fires," Kwinter said.

Toronto police say that in the past three years the number of grow houses shut down jumped by more than 400 per cent, from 33 in 2001 to 168 in the first six months of this years.

"Grow operations generate vast profits for organized crime," Staff Inspector Dan Hayes said last month.

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