Article by Mira Miller, Blog TO
Ontario Provincial Police and their partners just completed a 12-month-long investigation into a massive illegal cannabis network, resulting in the seizure of $2.5 million, more than 100,000 illegal cannabis plants, and 1,921 pounds of illegal cannabis.
Dubbed Project WOOLWICH, the OPP worked with several partners including the Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team (PJFCET), Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB), the Provincial Asset Forfeiture Unit (PAFU), and more to put a halt to the illegal production and distribution activities, arrest eight individuals and lay 213 charges.
“The criminal enterprise involved in this illegal network has been exploiting the Health Canada medical, personal and designate cannabis production regime by diverting cannabis authorized to be grown for medical purposes to the illegal market,” reads a release from the OPP.
“They have been involved in the production, wholesale distribution and sale of illegal cannabis.”
According to the release, investigators executed 26 warrants on Aug. 13 in numerous locations including Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Jordan, Simcoe, Markham, Canfield, Welland, Leamington, Scarborough, Richmond Hill and British Columbia.
There was also an international component to the operation as investigators seized shipments of illegal cannabis destined for the U.S. as well as two large shipments of U.S. currency destined for Canada.
Those involved in the network were also responsible for large-volume shipments of illegal cannabis from British Columbia to Ontario.
“The illegal cannabis trade is dominated by organized crime and they often change methods of transportation, production and distribution. This criminal enterprise may not be a known organized crime group, but they are people with power, influence and money and are extremely opportunistic,” said Detective Inspector Jim Walker of the OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau in a statement.
“Criminals are exploiting the Health Canada medical cannabis personal and designate production regime by diverting the cannabis to the illegal market and are profiting greatly from this illegal activity.”
As a result of the investigation, police seized a total of:
- 101,049 illegal cannabis plants
- 1,921 pounds of illegal cannabis bud
- 21 pounds of illegal cannabis shatter
- Two ounces of cocaine
- Three pounds of illegal cannabis hash
- 22 pounds of illegal cannabis oil
- Hundreds of illegal cannabis vape pens
- Six firearms including two .22 pistols, one 9mm Glock, one AR 15 assault rifle and two shotguns
- Grow equipment worth more than $1 million
- Numerous high-end jewelry items
- Four vehicles
- More than $2.5 million in Canadian currency
- $580,828 in US currency
- $379,383 in Chinese and South Korean currency
All told, the duty loss for the illegal cannabis seized is estimated at more than $42 million.