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Party’s over, time to go

The Province (Vancouver)
February 6, 1998
Page A24
Pot smokers paying Hells Angels’ bills
Mark Tonner

A message to all the nice guy pacifist pot smokers out there: You and your herbal buddies are financing a pack of heartless criminals in yet another sad ‘60s parallel.

I recently joined Vancouver police Strike Force and local emergency response team crews as they forced entry to a series of 10 marijuana grow houses. These are seemingly normal homes, in neighbourhoods like yours and mine, with entire floors given over to drug operations.

The setups in these homes are amazingly sophisticated. Thousands of dollars worth of specialty lights run on timers to maximize growth and potency; heavy transformers are wired in series to provide the juice. Electrical meters are bypassed, to steal current without alerting BC Hydro. Pungent plant odors are vented up chimney shafts (often chemically de-scented) to elude neighbourly nostrils.

The new farmers are mostly Hells Angels and their civilian servants, from what we’re seeing. Signs of biker worship (outlaw flags, stickers, Nazi regalia) abounded in these grow houses – even a Harley Davidson was found in one bud-filled basement. Doubtless the bike will be missed; it was taken away under proceeds-of-crime legislation.

There are other troubling themes. Pornography turned up in almost every operation, and not the medium-core variety seen in convenience stores.

Signs of Satanism were found in more than half the homes. Posters proclaims, “I vote for Satan,” and “Vote for Satan or the virgin gets it” to give printable examples. One advertised an orgy held in “Aborts-ford” to celebrate Satan being elected to public office!

What that might be about is hard to know. The Dark One hasn’t been listed on any recent ballot forms, but who can say for sure? He may have been voted in under another name.

Signs of cocaine use were much in evidence, as was a fascination with fighting dogs. In one house an alphabetical list of known serial murderers was found.

Alas, none of this points to the enlightened state marc Emery (owner of the Cannabis Café) claims for today’s brotherhood of dope smokers. It points to cold-hearted opportunism, and indifference to anything but profit.

Those who smoke the odd joint should bear in mind whom their contributions are supporting. Those opposed should keep an eye out for sealed-off windows, the sound of fans roaring late at night, and odors resembling roadkill skunk.

Occupants of these grow homes are left with a greeting, in the form of a sign posted on their lawn, saying who dropped by and why their grow equipment is missing. We’ve had a great stack of signs printed up – give CrimeStoppers a call at 666-TIPS if you think your neighbours are running an indoor plantation of their own.

satan 97 posters

The Province (Vancouver)
February 13, 1998
Page A22
Are we polarized on pot?: 
Grow-houses column sparked huffing ‘n’ puffing
Mark Tonner

Rarely is reader mail as fiery as what’s come in since last week’s article on marijuana grow houses.

I’d shared my experience tagging along with emergency-response- team and strike-force members as they played knock-knock at a series of local homes used as covert pot plantations.

The recurring theme was that police present the real problem, by insisting pot prohibition works, in the face of an expensive and time-consuming failure. Take the evil weed out of the Criminal Code, it was said, and you’ll end profiteering by criminal groups, as well as free the police for other matters.

It turns out the devilish posters I’d spoken of, hanging in several grow houses (one advertised an orgy, to celebrate Satan being elected to public office) may have been leftovers from a political prank. Apparently, a man ran in 1997′s federal election under the name “Sa Tan” to tease a largely Christian Fraser Valley electorate, and actually polled 96 votes. The same man was said to have run as Ronald McDonald, complete with clown suit, in the most recent Vancouver civic election.

I was accused of fomenting “Reefer Madness”-style hysteria, and was labelled a narrow-minded bigot. Midway through the e-mailbag, an invitation to get off my “high” horse and have a puff prompted a new thought.

How split is public opinion on the marijuana issue? If an accurate poll were taken, showing a majority in favor of outright legalization, would it be right to change the law?

Though marijuana does sack respiratory systems and brings depression, paranoia and withered motivation, it doesn’t turn smokers into instant threats the way heroin and cocaine do. Wheezing and underachievement could be portrayed as individual choices. And in a sense, decriminalization has already been achieved — charges for simple possession of pot are currently unheard of.

Yet Canadian society is unready to turn its back on full-scale manufacture and distribution. The CrimeStoppers line has been ringing non-stop since last week’s article, and the enforcement role falls to us.

The “waste-of-police-resources” argument bites both ways: Ignoring less-serious offences until the most dire ones are eliminated would tie us permanently to whatever was given top priority. Even that most dire offence wouldn’t be eliminated, and nothing else would get done — no quieting of noisy parties, no searches for missing persons, no anti-purse-snatching projects or crime-prevention outreaches, to give examples from an endless list.

Dare I say, no photo radar? All kidding aside, police owe society a reasonable attempt at targeting all criminal activity. Until we’re called off, we’ll keep pounding away at this one.

Even so, it must be said the marijuana issue makes “referendum” a prettier word than it has been.

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