Article by Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer
Norfolk County wants to hear more about a special fund the Ontario Provincial Police has established for the disposal of massive cannabis seizures.
At the Oct. 7 meeting of Norfolk’s Police Services Board, Det.-Insp. Jim Walker, head of the OPP’s Cannabis Enforcement Task Force, mentioned that the OPP has set aside money for this purpose.
That cash could come in handy now that Walker’s task force has shut down two major illegal grow operations in Norfolk in recent weeks. Norfolk OPP enlisted the county’s help in disposing of thousands of plants, some of which will be as large as Christmas trees late in the growing season.
“I struggle with putting this on the local taxpayers’ bill,” Mayor Kristal Chopp told council Tuesday, noting Ottawa and Queen’s Park are reaping the tax benefits of legal cannabis while municipalities like Norfolk are left mopping up the downside.
The requests from law enforcement were sudden and unexpected but appreciated given Norfolk’s mounting problem with illegal cannabis operations. There are an estimated 70 to 100 designated-grow operations in Norfolk that Health Canada says are operating with little or no supervision due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Large greenhouse operations popping up in developed areas of Norfolk have generated thousands of complaints over the past two years regarding light pollution, odour and suspicious activity.
Chopp – a vocal supporter of a legal industry in Norfolk that respects the rules from all levels of government – says it only takes a handful of bad actors to create enormous problems for the municipality and its residents.
The help Norfolk has provided the cannabis task force in recent weeks involves public works crews using heavy trucks and equipment to dispose of contraband production. CAO Jason Burgess agreed to help, he said, because public works is better equipped for the job than law enforcement.
“My guys can get rid of the stuff quicker and cheaper and more efficiently than the OPP,” Burgess said. “That’s a benefit to the taxpayer.”
Norfolk County has incurred tipping fees in recent weeks from its third-party landfill contractor. The plants seized in Norfolk were transported and buried at this facility. Incinerators used to welcome cannabis biomass but high resin content these days foul furnaces so this method has fallen out of favour.