Article by Rachel Browne, Vice News.
Every year as summer comes to an end, teams of Canadian military and police officers patrol the skies in helicopters hunting for illegal marijuana grow-ops nestled in farm fields below.
It’s called Operation Sabot, a joint effort led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) involving the armed forces and other local law enforcement, that launched in 1989 for the sole purpose of destroying illegal marijuana plants across the country. Since then, hundreds of thousands have been confiscated, and many criminal charges have been laid ranging from possession to trafficking. After it’s over, the force basks in positive media coverage featuring impressive photos of officers in aircrafts and trunks full of weed plants freshly plucked from the soil.
But while police and many federal politicians hail the anti-pot effort as integral to curbing organized crime and keeping communities safe, there’s questions about its effectiveness — especially as the drug is slated to become legal next year for recreational use.
At the moment, only people with medical prescriptions can buy marijuana through government-licensed companies that grow and send it through the mail.
“The once-a-year sweep of outdoor grow-ops makes little to no difference on the illegal drug trade in Canada,” said Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a Liberal member of Parliament for Toronto who has been critical of heavy-handed law enforcement tactics when it comes to drugs. He says Operation Sabot is a “perfect example” of why cannabis should be legalized soon.